Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

May 8, 2013

Jail overcrowding ordinance passes on split vote

By Joe Lewis - Staff Writer
Journal-Times

May 8, 2013 — Carter Fiscal Court met Friday in special session for the second reading of an ordinance to address overcrowding at the Carter County Detention Center.

At the start of the meeting, Jailer R.W. Boggs was allowed five minutes to address the Fiscal Court with his concerns about the ordinance.

“I would ask that the Fiscal Court be seriously cautioned as to making such a rash decision, placing our jail in a situation that assures it to be a financial burden on the county for years to come,” Boggs said in a written statement.

He asserts that the ordinance would force him to relocate as many as 50 federal inmates, which he claims will cost the county upwards of $1.1 million in lost revenue.

Magistrate Mary Ellen Greenhill, however, disputed Boggs' figures, producing a census from the Kentucky Department of Corrections (DOC) showing that the detention center holds fewer county inmates than the jailer had originally stated.

Greenhill also added that the ordinance does not require Boggs to specifically relocate only federal inmates and that he still has discretion as to how he would implement a plan to bring the population in compliance with the ordinance.

“No one has ever said that the jailer has to get rid of all of the federal inmates,” Greenhill added, as she then addressed the Court with her specific reasons for proposing the ordinance.

“While I was negotiating the federal rate increase, a lot of things came to my attention that I wasn’t aware of before. That’s when I started looking up the state statutes about the jail,” Greenhill said. “I’m just trying to bring us into compliance with state law.”

Greenhill also referenced the 2012 DOC inspection as another basis for drafting the ordinance.

That report lists 22 items of non-compliance, several relating to outdated policies and procedures that have not been updated as required.

Boggs submitted a manual to the Fiscal Court for approval on Oct. 16 of last year but no action has been taken on the document thus far.

One particular infraction drew Greenhill's attention the most. As of the 2012 DOC report, inmates were not issued clean uniforms while their dirty uniforms were being laundered.

Greenhill alleged that this forced inmates to be naked until their clean uniforms were returned to them.

During discussion of the ordinance, former magistrate Millard Cordell attempted to ask a question but was informed by Judge-Executive Charles Wallace that the Fiscal Court would not entertain comments from the public during the meeting.

Another former magistrate, Jeff Flaugher, then said, “It’s like this every day.”

That comment drew the ire of Wallace who had Flaugher escorted from the courtroom

and cited for disrupting a public meeting.

“I won’t put up with this crap, you understand? You can’t just come in here and start smart mouthing,” said Wallace.

Under Kentucky’s open meeting laws, the public's right to attend a meeting does not include the right to participate in the meeting and address members of the public agency.

That allows Wallace and the Fiscal Court to deny public comment on the issue at hand.

Before the vote, Magistrate Brandon Burton attempted to ask County Attorney Patrick Flannery his opinion on the ordinance, but Wallace wouldn't allow the question.

“He doesn't have a beef in this,” Wallace said of Flannery.

The ordinance passed on a 3-2 vote with Magistrates Clifford Roe, Clarence Fankell and Greenhill casting affirmative votes, while Burton and Brad Brammell voted against the measure.

Joe Lewis can be reached at jlewis@journal-times.com or by telephone at 286-4201.