Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

December 12, 2012

Fiscal Court retains outside counsel, questions jail finances

By Leeann Akers - Managing Editor
Journal-Times

Dec. 12, 2012 — Carter Fiscal Court met in special session early Friday morning.

The Court easily passed claims, which Treasurer Beth Justice said were “flow-through monies.” Also, the Court approved financing through BBT bank in Charleston of a new SUV for the sheriff’s department. The cost is $27,000 and the bank is offering a 1.5 percent interest rate.

Also listed on the agenda was “legal services” which remains shrouded in confusion.

Judge-Executive Charles Wallace asked the Court to approve a motion “to get legal services,” which was then offered by Magistrate Clifford “Sodbuster” Roe.

“Since our attorney (County Attorney Patrick Flannery) has sued us and we have that issue coming up down there with the city trying to take our land, we need someone who will represent us,” Roe said. “Patrick has a conflict of interest and we need another attorney. When you sue your own clients, there is something bad wrong.”

Flannery was a plaintiff in a case where it was alleged that the Court had violated the Open Meetings Act. The case was heard in Carter Circuit Court Nov. 29 and a special judge ruled in favor of the Fiscal Court.

“The issue with the Open Meeting Violation allegations has been resolved,” argued Magistrate Brad Brammell. “I don’t have a problem with Patrick.”

Roe said he does, however.

When asked for a clarification of the motion, Wallace said that the measure was “just in case” the Court needed an outside attorney for representation.

“This is so we don’t have to vote on it every time,” Wallace said.

There remains some question as to what Flannery’s capacity as county attorney would be if the Court hired outside legal counsel.

According to KRS 69.210, the county attorney “… shall institute, defend, and conduct all civil actions in which the county or consolidated local government is interested before any of the courts of the Commonwealth.”

When asked the cost of a retainer fee, Wallace said it would be “the going rate.” Although not part of the motion, it was discussed that Richard “Sonny” Martin, who represented the Court in the Open Meetings suit, would be the lawyer used.

Martin was paid $1,500 by the Fiscal Court during its Nov. 20 meeting.

Magistrate Sonny Fankell seconded Roe’s motion. Brammell and Burton voted against it. With the late Ronnie Greenhill’s seat still empty, Wallace broke the tie and the motion passed.

Former magistrate Millard Cordell then asked to be recognized as he chastised the Court for the motion.

“You are going over the head of an elected official,” Cordell said. “The taxpayers of this county had to spend money on legal services they didn’t need once already. Judge, you’re just paying that FIVCO lawyer for no reason. This is a political move.”

Wallace said that Flannery suing the Court was a political witch hunt and the meeting was quickly concluded.

Assistant County Attorney John Thompson sat in for Flannery at the meeting. Flannery said he was not given proper notification of the special meeting and had to attend depositions at that time.

“I won’t apologize for standing up for the people of Carter County if their rights are being violated,” Flannery said. “They can’t remove me as county attorney, but if they want to hire outside legal counsel, they have the right to do that.”

The Court had some discussion on the transfer of $25,000 from the general fund to the jail. According to Justice, the U. S. Marshal Service is four months behind on payments to the county. Jailer R.W. Boggs said he expected the payment next week.

Roe requested copies of the invoices and the amount that is due to pay for the housing of federal prisoners. He asked if an increase of the daily rate for federal inmates has been sought.

“I called and they said no money had been approved,” Roe said. “This thing with the money has gone far enough.”

Boggs shared an email from the U.S. Department of Justice which confirmed that the rate increase application was under review.

Magistrate Brad Brammell made a motion to transfer the funds, Brandon Burton seconded, and the motion passed.