FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Work from the Washington County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee is frozen after a local judge realized committee members were operating long past their term limits.
The CJCC helps support the Crisis Stabilization Unit by monitoring its progress and providing recommendations to increase efficiency in the criminal justice system.
However, the committee’s fate is up in the air after Judge Patrick Deakins discovered the original ordinance established in 2017.
“What we’ve been working on these past few weeks is to get an understanding of what boards and commissions we have appointments to that those are within terms. And that they are appropriate,” said Deakins.
Deakins says the ordinance stated committee members are limited to three-year terms. According to Deakins, he was shocked that all members were in their sixth year.
“While this was surprising from a timing standpoint. I think it also prompts a conversation about what we want the future of that body to be,” said Deakins.
Prosecuting Attorney Matt Durett says he had forgotten that there was a set term limit.
According to Justice of the Peace Beth Coger, the committee members have only served three years. The 2017 committee was solely responsible for the Crisis Stabilization Unit.
“In order to have a Crisis Stabilization Unit, we operate under rules and regulations put forth by the Arkansas Department of Human Services. And we have to have a governing body,” said Coger.
Then in 2019, Washington County paid $70,000 for a criminal justice court assessment study.
“It said we needed a criminal justice coordinating committee. Well we already had that board set up for the CSU it morphed into the CJCC,” said Coger.
Coger is disappointed with Deakins’ actions and wants the judge to support the committee.
“Instead of throwing in the towel, let’s look on what we can do to make it better. So I would say that to Judge Deakins. What have you done to help this committee succeed? Because I don’t see it,” said Coger.
Coger says disbanding the committee will put the Crisis Stabilization Unit in jeopardy and called the freeze on its work unfair.