Washington County Prosecutor Will Not Investigate Faulty Bridges
FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM)- The Washington County Prosecutor’s Office will not investigate faulty bridges built by the county road department, according to Washington County Judge Marilyn Edwards.
Edwards made the announcement at Thursday (April 16) night’s Quorum Court meeting after asking Prosecutor Matt Durrett to investigate shortcuts taken during construction on March 30.
Later Thursday, Prosecuting Attorney Matt Durrett told 5NEWS he doesn’t see anything criminal that would warrant an investigation by his office.
The Quorum Court also voted for Justice of the Peace Eva Madison to work with Chief of Staff Dan Short to investigate the bridge construction problem. Madison will decide whether she will conduct the investigation by Friday morning. If she declines, the Quorum Court will ask Justice of the Peace Tom Lundstrom to do it and then Justice of the Peace Bill Ussery.
On Thursday, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge also said she will not investigate the bridge issue after several Quorum Court members sent two letters seeking an investigation. Rutledge said she doesn’t have the authority to investigate the matter and asked the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department to look into it, something Judge Edwards also did earlier this week. The judge requested the AHTD inspect all county bridges built in the last 20 years.
A local lawmaker has also stepped in and requested a legislative audit of the Washington County Road Department on Wednesday (April 15). Sen. Uvalde Lindsey, D-Fayetteville, sent an email to Judge Edwards and Washington County Attorney Steve Zega informing them that he’d spoke with Roger Norman, director of legislative audit, and Norman agreed to the investigation.
Washington County is a defendant in a whistleblower lawsuit filed by George Braswell, a county road employee who alleged that two bridges were structurally deficient.
One of those, the Stonewall Bridge near Prairie Grove, was recently torn down after county officials admitted mistakes were made in building it.
The second one, the Harvey Dowell Bridge between Elkins and Fayetteville, is still open to the public but has been reduced to a weight limit of three tons.