Attorney: County judge can't vote

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

By Mike Ellis

Carroll County News

CARROLL COUNTY -- County Judge Sam Barr had legal advice on his side when he cast a tie-breaking vote at the quorum court meeting June 12. Further research showed that the judge cannot vote to break a tie.

The quorum court was considering whether to allow Barr to hire a part-time secretary, to help make sure the doors of his office are always open and the county's citizens can always hear a live voice on the other end of the phone.

The justices of the peace were sharply divided on the issue, with JP Ron Flake saying he strongly opposed creating a new position after the court voted against raises for existing personnel this year. With one JP absent, the remaining members voted 5-5, and Barr cast a "yes" vote to break the tie.

Prosecuting Attorney Tony Rogers, who provides counsel to the quorum court, said the judge could vote to break a tie, the way mayors can.

After the meeting, JP Frank Renner called attorney Mark Whitmore with the Association of Arkansas Counties. Whitmore confirmed that a county judge has no vote under any circumstances.

Arkansas Code 14-14-904 says, in part, "The county judge shall preside over the quorum court without a vote but with the power of veto."

Barr said without his vote the part-time position would be defeated. He did not know if the quorum court would formally take action to undo the vote at its next meeting, July 17.

At the same meeting, Renner had asked about term limits for members of the Equalization Board. The quorum court had received a request to approve another term for Mike Tisevich. Renner read from state codes which seemed to prohibit another term for Tisevich, but Rogers said the quorum court had no authority in the selection of Tisevich, who represents the cities within the county.

Renner later checked on the term limits question, and found an opinion from the Arkansas attorney general which said the Equalization Board is a "board of necessity," and thus has no term limits.

Renner voted "no" at the meeting, while the other JPs voted to approve Tisevich. Renner said he cast his vote because, "I thought there was a term limit and I wasn't about to break the law." He said he would have voted to approve Tisevich if he had the additional information he later discovered.

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