Mediation will begin Thursday, Jan. 9 in a final attempt to settle a lawsuit filed by Decatur County Sheriff Keith Byrd. If an agreement is not reached, depositions are expected to begin Monday, Jan. 13 and a trial will be inevitable. All 18 Decatur County commissioners are expected to meet one-by-one with attorneys from Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell beginning Monday, Jan. 6 in preparation of possible depositions.
Sheriff Keith Byrd filed the lawsuit against Decatur County in late September 2019. The suit was filed, “for funding necessary to hire and retain professional deputies, jailers and staff and to acquire essential crime-fighting equipment and other expenses required to protect the citizens of Decatur County from dangerous drug pushers, murderers, rapists and other violent criminals who threaten, hurt, harm and even kill law-abiding citizens,” according to a press release from Byrd’s attorney, Roy Herron.
The suit was filed just weeks after approval of the 2019-20 budget. While the budget increased local property taxes by 26 cents, it did not adequately fund the sheriff’s department, according to Byrd and 8th District Commissioner April Barrett. “The Commission was informed by our attorney that this would very likely be the result if the budget did not include proper funding, and that we should keep this in mind during our discussion regarding a budget. Sadly, that advice fell on deaf ears,” Barrett told The News Leader in September. Barrett made a motion at the Sept. meeting to settle the near $1,000,000.00 suit which requested additional monies for more personnel, raises for current deputies and jailers, and equipment. Cathie Phillips, 6th District Commissioner, seconded the motion which failed by a 16-2 vote.