Outgoing Jefferson County Judge Booker Clemons said farewell to members of the Quorum Court earlier this month and provided them a list of the things he accomplished while in office.
The county’s legislative body selected Clemons during a special meeting on March 22 to replace former County Judge Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV, who resigned after being indicted by a federal grand jury for accepting bribes from a lobbyist while during his service in the Arkansas General Assembly.
Current Jefferson County Sheriff Gerald Robinson, who defeated former Jefferson County Judge Dutch King in the May Democratic primary and faced no Republican opposition in the November General Election, will be sworn in as the new county judge Jan. 1.
“We started with five full-time employees, five student workers and two attorneys,” Clemons said. “Today we have one full time, four part-time employees and one attorney.”
While he was in office, Wilkins had hired a law firm headed by former Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel to represent the county in some cases, including a lawsuit filed against Wilkins by the Republican-led Jefferson County Election Commission. One of Clemons’ first acts was to fire that firm and to rely solely on attorney Jackie Harris, who has been the county attorney since King was in office.
Wilkins is a Democrat, as is Clemons.
Not long after taking office, Jefferson County and the City of Pine Bluff were hit with a major hail storm, and Clemons said in the information he gave to the Quorum Court that the event caused damage to 17 county-owned buildings and more than 60 vehicles. Insurance settlements for damage to the buildings alone is expected to exceed $400,000.
Several of the projects that began under the Wilkins’ administration continued under Clemons, including the creation of a county website and a revamping of the telephone system, which is expected to provide savings on phone bills. Also, a contract was signed with a company that will perform work on 17 county buildings in an effort to save money on utility bills.
Clemons also cited improvements to the E-Waste and tire shredding facilities that he said should provide the county with additional revenue.
In his list, Clemons also mentioned problems with the Election Commission, particularly after he refused to pay two of the commissioners for work that he said should have been performed by the election coordinator he hired. One of those commissioners, Stuart Soffer, has filed a lawsuit against Clemons, seeking the money.
An ethics complaint was also filed against Clemons, who thanked members of the Quorum Court for their help, “including the large number of emails received daily from two people (Soffer and Election Commission Chairman Mike Adam).”