County officials clash over election costs
Chaos in Quorum Court as justices butt heads on budget needs
What was supposed to be a simple budget increase request by the Republican- controlled Crittenden County Election Commission to cover the costs of an upcoming school board election and a West Memphis bond issue ended with no funding appropriated and two black Quorum Court justices accusing a white justice of making a race issue over the vote.
“You coming in hear using the race card is very offensive to me,” Justice Stacy Allen told Justice Albert Marconi after Marconi accused black justices of “raking the election commission over the coals,” and after Justice Vickie Robertson said she wasn’t going to agree to request based on what was previously agreed upon.
Following the 8-4 vote in which Justice Patsy Hull and Vickie Robertson voted “no” and justices Allen and Kenneth Cross “passed”, which resulted in the request being denied, Justice Marconi chastised Robertson and said, “I can’t understand why we can’t get together and agree on something. Vickie votes on something and everybody else goes along with it.”That resulted in a shouting match in which Robertson came back and asked Marconi, “Are you saying ‘everybody’ being black?”
“Again, you are making it a black and white issue,” shouted Robertson. “I am sticking to what we agreed to and I don’t know why you aren’t agreeing to what was agreed to,” Robertson told Marconi.
Then, Justice Allen turned to Marconi and said, “When you come in here and play the race card, it is offensive. It is very offensive. I’m not a ‘yes man.’ I don’t vote according to how Vickie votes. I passed on it because I wasn’t comfortable with it and because I don’t think we need two election coordinators. So you can take that BS on the race card,” Allen said.
When Judge Woody Wheeless attempted to call the meeting to order. Allen, as he was exiting the meeting room said, “That ain’t right for him to come in here and play the race card. This ain’t got nothing to do with race.”
It was then that Robertson called for the meeting to adjourn leaving Election Commissioners Frank Barton, Chairwoman Dixie Carlson and Thula Thomas empty-handed for the upcoming votes.
The three election commissioners came to the meeting seeking $39,400 in additional funds to cover the costs of two more elections this year and prepare for next year’s primaries.
Barton explained the current budget of $77,700 would not be enough to cover upcoming costs and was asking justices to raise the budget to $117,100.
Robertson, earlier in the meeting, asked Barton why the Marion School District, the West Memphis School Board hasn’t reimbursed the county for recent elections. County Treasurer Matt Thompson said the Marion reimbursement was received and the very recent (Sept. 10) West Memphis millage election was just billed to the school board.
The only new revenue Robertson was willing to agree upon was the original four-month allotment of $3,200 which the Election Commission will have to work with until they can come back next month in hopes of convincing Robertson, Hall, Allen and Cross to change their votes.