Turrell mayor lashes out at Quorum Court

Cooper: ‘I don’t appreciate how I am being spoken to’

By Mark Randall news@theeveningtimes.com

The Mayor of Turrell claims she is being treated disrespectfully by the county Quorum Court, and one member in particular. Mayor Dorothy Cooper told the justices that she felt she was insulted and treated poorly by Justice Vickie Robertson at a recent finance committee meeting. “I’ve been coming to the Quorum Court for four years, first as a citizen and then as an advocate for my community” Cooper said. “When I come and speak to you, I feel like I have been disrespected with some of the comments that have been made.” Cooper said she took offense to some of the comments that were made to her when she came before the finance committee seeking money to pay for gravel to help build a city park in Turrell. “It seems Justice Robertson has a problem with me,” Cooper said. “And I don’t know what it is. I have never been disrespectful. When I came before the finance committee last week my paperwork wasn’t complete. It’s okay if you tell me it isn’t complete. I’m all right with that. But when you go further and tell me things like ‘if you could read then you would have known to bring your budget.’ I don’t appreciate how I am being spoken to. And I’m sure I will be back many, many times because that is my job, to speak up for my community.” Cooper said she has been called “selfish” for asking the Quorum Court to help out Turrell in the past. Cooper lobbied justices for four years to get the county to help build a library branch in Turrell. The county donated two computers and a printer and agreed to pay $3,100 a year for a part-time librarian and $600 a year for Internet. The county also paid $1,500 to underpin the building’s foundation. In the past few months, Cooper has also asked the county for assistance to help fix the city’s crumbing sewer pond before they are hit with fines that could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Turrell was awarded a $45,000 Facilities for Underdeveloped Neighborhoods (FUN) grant through Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. The grant will pay for a half basketball court, pavilion, and children’s playground, but not the site work. The proposed location has drainage issues and needs about $20,000 in dirt work to alleviate flooding. “So we have about $20,000 we need to make up for,” Cooper said. “It was suggested to me that I come here and see if we can get some assistance. I was just following procedure.” Robertson, who chairs the finance committee, said she was in no way disrespectful to Cooper. “During that meeting at no time — and there were other members there — at no time during the meeting did I say ‘if you can read,’” Robertson said. “That is a complete fallacy.” Robertson responded that all she did was point out that the paperwork was not properly filled out for the committee to evaluate her request. “The first question on the application asks what is your organization’s mission,” Robertson said. “She had on there to build a fun park. I said ‘that can’t be the mission for the City of Turrell.’ She said ‘you tell me the mission.’ I said, ‘I can’t tell you that. That’s your project.’ “At no times was I disrespectful. But it is not our responsibility to complete your application. There are plenty of groups who have submitted applications. If an application is incomplete, we send you back to work on it again.” In fact, Robertson said the finance committee also told County Assessor Kim Hollowell that same day to come back as well because she also did not have all of the information they needed to act on her request. “So don’t feel like you are the only person we have sent back Ms. Cooper,” Robertson said. “We have done it with the museum. We have done it with the library. If the application is not complete, we can not act on it.” Robertson also pointed out that Cooper also did not include a budget for the park for justices to look over. But according to Justice Hubert Bass, Robertson has a history of being rude to Cooper. “You’re lying,” Bass interjected. “You were rude to Ms. Cooper and it isn’t the first time.” Robertson has taken Cooper to task in the past for not turning in a budget to the library board for the Turrell library. “I have the floor, Mr. Bass,” Robertson said. “We’re not going to have any more,” Bass added. “Not with me there.” Justice Stacy Allen fired back at Bass. “You have been on Facebook and are rude and disrespectful to members of this court all the time,” Allen said. “The Quorum Court is not to call people out.” Bass is part of a “Team Unity” ticket with Cooper, who is running for a seat on the Quorum Court. Cooper’s picture recently appeared on Bass’s Facebook page along with Shabaka Afrika, Kyle Watkins, and Deborah Farrow with the caption “Join us in joining hands to stop the coon train.” Robertson said at no time did the finance committee say no to her request. “She did not submit the budget and we told her ‘where is the budget?’” Robertson said. “So we told Ms. Cooper we have another meeting coming up. We review all applications and we take it seriously and we try to review it accurately. We did not say no. We told her to go back and complete the application. It wasn’t turned down.” Cooper said she did not have a problem with Robertson telling her that. However, she asked that she be treated more courteously in the future. “Maybe I didn’t fill it out correctly,” Cooper said. “And I want to do things correctly. I’m not trying to be greedy. I’m not talking crazy. I am doing what I need to do for my community. And it is not fair for me to be continuously disrespected. This has got to stop because I am going to come before you many more times. I don’t want to come up here feeling like I am causing a problem. I’m not. That is all I need to say.” Other justices, however, were quick to defend Robertson. “I was sitting right beside her and at no time did I think Vickie was being disrespectful to her,” said Justice Ronnie Marconi. “I thought it (Cooper’s remarks) was badly out of line.” “And definitely don’t threaten anybody,” added Justice Tyrone McWright. “I heard a threat there.” Justice Ronnie Sturch said the public comment period should not be used to attack a member of the Quorum Court. “I’m not taking sides in this,” Sturch said. “But we have never allowed anybody to come in here and personally attack a justice on this court That should be stopped.” “I didn’t know she was going to do that,” Judge Woody Wheeless said. “The mayor and I have a good working relationship. When she calls me if they are needing help, like any of the other mayors, if the county can help we try to make sure we help all the mayors.”

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