Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

Local News

April 4, 2012

Fiscal Court answers redistricting suit

April 4, 2012 —     Carter County Fiscal Court has responded to a lawsuit requesting that Circuit Court force the county to redraw its magisterial district lines.

    Ashland attorney Richard Martin, retained by Fiscal Court as special counsel in the matter, filed his response last week in which he requests that the complaint be dismissed.

    Mignon Colley filed the lawsuit last October, maintaining that the Fiscal Court failed and refused to redraw the districts so they are compact, contiguous and the population of each district is as nearly equal as reasonably possible as required by Kentucky law.

    Fiscal Court decided during its Sept. 13 meeting to reject a plan developed by a committee appointed to study reapportionment, as all counties are required to do every 10 years following the census. The committee’s plan would have added a sixth magisterial district.

    In addition to rejecting the committee’s recommendation, the Court refused to consider alternative proposals, including one by Magistrate Brad Brammell that would have kept the number of districts at five, but reshuffled voting precincts among some of them.

    Clifford “Sodbuster” Roe made the motion to keep the districts unchanged; Sonny Fankell seconded. Those two were joined in voting “yes” by Ronnie Greenhill. Brammell and Brandon Burton voted “no.”

    An identical 3-2 vote allowed Judge-Executive Charles Wallace to hire Martin to represent the court, instead of utilizing County Attorney Patrick Flannery. 

    Flannery warned the Court in October it could be opening the county up to litigation by refusing to reconfigure the districts.

    Under state law, he said, any citizen who feels the districts are out of alignment could file suit and the county could ultimately be responsible for all legal fees in the matter, plus be court-ordered to reapportion.

    In her suit, Colley claimed the Court “failed and refused to redraw the districts so they are compact, contiguous, and the population of each district is as nearly equal as reasonably possible…”

    Martin said in the response that the Court “…acted in good faith and made every effort to comply with the provisions of KRS 67.045. They further state that they believe that they have fully complied with the letter, spirit and intent of the statute.”

    Colley also claimed that the failure to redistrict was “arbitrary and capricious” and requested that all her legal fees be reimbursed by the county. Martin denied both the allegations on behalf of the court.

    The most interesting of the defenses listed cited the “known existence of voter registration/ precinct residency that affect the number of voters in the respective precincts as a defense to the allegations contained in the complaint.”

    “There are a lot of people who have been voting in the wrong district and we are working to fix that,” Wallace said. “I questioned it when they came in and did the census, I don't think it is right. I think if it was done right, we wouldn't be out of whack with the districts.”

    According to County Clerk Mike Johnston, six individuals who lived in close proximity had been voting in the wrong precinct, but that issue has been resolved. 

    Colley, who filed her suit without legal assistance, now has retained Attorney Reid Glass to represent her. 

    In its response, Fiscal Court requested that, if the court should rule that it had acted inappropriately, then the matter should be remanded to the Fiscal Court for further consideration.

    A date for a hearing has not been set. Special Judge Robert Conley will preside since Circuit Judge Rebecca Phillips recused herself.

    Leeann Akers can be reached at lakers@journal-times.com or by telephone at 474-5101.

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