The Cleburne County Commission voted unanimously Monday night to retain a Montgomery law firm to represent the county in a claim for damages against manufacturers and/or distributors of opioids.
Rick Stratton of the Beasley Allen law firm presented an argument to commissioners about how aggressive marketing and distribution has contributed to the current epidemic of opioid use in the state. The law firm, Stratton said, will pursue feasible civil remedies for the county including expenses related to the ongoing costs of dealing with the opioid crisis. The lawyer said the firm will also try to get the responsible parties to fix the problem via education and treatment for the addicted.
Stratton told the commission that his law firm is experienced with big cases, citing the judgment the firm got for the state during the BP oil spill. There will be no cost for the county to retain the law firm, but it will receive one third of any judgment in the county’s favor, he said.
Stratton said one of the reasons for the current opioid epidemic is the seven manufacturers of opioids went on a crusade to retain doctors and researchers to prescribe the drugs outside of their original use, which was for cancer patients. Doctors now prescribe them for any pain including backaches and headaches, according to Stratton.
After the meeting, Commissioner Terry Hendrix was glad that something is going to be done to address the opioid epidemic, hoping that any favorable judgment would bring awareness and help addicts in the county.
“It’s not going to cost us anything — what are you losing?” Hendrix said.
In other business, the commission:
— Voted unanimously to seek missing files from the administrative office since the retirement of the county administrator, Steve Swafford. The resolution read “the Commission Chairman has stated that all working files and documents have been turned over to the different individuals who had been identified at the time as handling the different facets of the job.”
The resolution orders that all county employees or officials to return any files to the administrative office by March 30. Human resources officer Lisa Milinkovich said there are missing files in her department’s computers.
— Voted unanimously to support the establishment of the 2.1-mile Heflin spur of the Pinhoti Trail. Proponent Adam Dasinger gave a multimedia presentation on the trail including photographs and informative diagrams. Dasinger said he will meet with the U.S. Forest Service on April 2 with the hope of getting its approval.
“All the government entities that would be affected, that would have a stake in this, are saying ‘Let’s get it done.’ I’m excited about presenting it to the Forest Service and what they finally tell us what we need to do,” Dasinger said.
— Voted unanimously to implement a private access permit for all future driveway installations to ensure safety and the free flow of traffic. In the past the county would assist with the installation of the first driveway at a new residence. County engineer Lee Estes or his designee will review and approve all applications for driveway permits.
— Voted to include the three most recent financial audits of all county departments on the county’s webpage to promote transparency. Commission Chairman Ryan Robertson, who is also the probate judge, asked for an amendment to the resolution before it was voted on. Robertson wanted to the resolution to include a “listing of the itemized travel and training-related expenditures for each of the five county commission members for the last four years.”
However, the commission did not include Robertson’s amendment before voting.
“It’s ironic that that they want all the county departments to be transparent but yet when I asked for their transparency on their travel expenses and the cost of their classes, they don’t want to be transparent,” Robertson said after the meeting.