Watkins accused of inaction in Red House man's divorce

By Lawrence Smith | Jun 28, 2012


WINFIELD – On the heels of allegations he behaved badly in a Hurricane minister's divorce, Putnam Circuit Judge William M. "Chip" Watkins III is accused of failing to correct his "inaccurate and inappropriate rulings" in one involving a Red House man from two years ago.

Danny Ray Payne II on June 27 filed a writ of mandamus in Putnam Circuit Court. In his writ, Payne, 47, asks the Court to compel Watkins to issue a revised final order in the divorce from his estranged wife, Billie Dawn Payne, 42, which Watkins has been sitting on for over a year.

According to the writ, a final hearing on the Paynes divorce was scheduled for June 30, 2010. Following the hearing, Billie's attorney prepared a final order which Watkins signed that "consisted of inaccurate and inappropriate rulings."

The writ neither identifies Billie's attorney nor the nature of the rulings.

Nevertheless, Danny appealed Watkins' ruling to circuit court. Though he does not specify who was assigned the case, he maintains his appeal was heard on May 26, 2011, and remanded back to Watkins.

On an unspecified date shortly thereafter, Watkins "held a hearing to address the issues identified on remand." However, in the year since then, Danny says Watkins has failed to make a ruling.

As a result of the delay, Danny says he has "suffered financial hardship" and "cannot continue to pay the amounts ordered either by the Family Court temporary Order or the Final Order which was remanded, due to the reduction of pay at his employment." A writ of mandamus he says is necessary since any "subsequent Orders issued by the Family Court would not be in his best interest or the best interest of his children."

Payne is represented by Winfield attorney David O. Moye. The case is assigned to Judge Phillip M. Stowers.

Payne's writ comes a day after Rev. Arthur D. Hage released video of a hearing relating to matters in the divorce from his estranged wife, Lillian, on May 23 in which Watkins is seen screaming and verbally berating Hage during most it. During the hearing, Watkins accused Hage of being responsible for vandalism that occurred to his home the evening before following publication of an online article that Watkins and his wife were "not in good standing" with their homeowner's association dues last Fall.

Hage has denied any knowledge of the article or the vandalism. On June 4, he filed an ethics complaint against Watkins with the Judicial Investigation Commission for his unprofessional behavior during the May 23 hearing.

One of Hage's parishioners, Paul D. Bentley, who accompanied Hage to the hearing has also filed an ethics complaint against Watkins for ordering him removed from the courthouse without any justification.

Putnam Circuit Court case number 12-C-202

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