Late on Thursday, an email began circulating that security would no longer be available at the Bates County Courthouse which spawned an emergency meeting at the chambers of the Bates County commission on Friday morning. 

On December 28th, Presiding Commissioner Jim Wheatley, Southern Commissioner Trent Nelson and Northern Commissioner Ken Mooney voted to reallocate funding to the sheriff’s department that was earmarked for courthouse security and move it to maintenance for county buildings. This brought a swift response from the sheriff, saying that if the money was no longer available, the sheriff’s office would no longer be able to provide security and employees of the courthouse reacted by asking the commissioners if it would be back in place before they returned to work on Tuesday.

A video of the meeting, which can be viewed on the Mid America Live website shows the packed room as questions were raised regarding the motive behind the reallocation of funds, with the continuing question of would security be in place by the start of the new year.

Wheatley advised the group that it was within the power of the commission to make such changes while explaining that the money would best be used for maintenance of county buildings and that the sheriff’s office should have more than ample funds available for security due to money received by that office for housing of federal inmates and other sources.

Sheriff Anderson responded by saying that while the money was indeed originally earmarked for the sheriff’s office, providing security for the courthouse was a courtesy as long as funds are available; besides providing bailiff’s for court the sheriff’s office would have no other obligations to the courthouse overall. In his remarks, he noted that such moves by the commission are cause of a ‘hostile work environment’ between the commission and his office.

The 30 minute meeting was concluded with a suggestion by Bates County Circuit Clerk Shelli White that any decisions regarding security and the moving of funds be postponed for at least 6 months until other arrangements can be made. A vote was held, and the commissioners were unanimous in their decision to postpone until July of 2023. 

More is expected regarding this matter over coming months.

Video of the meeting can be seen here