March 21, 2014 —
GRAYSON — In a meeting that went from prolonged periods of silence to unqualified shouting matches, Carter County Fiscal Court members approved a plan to move ahead with a bid to buy security cameras, without placing one of the cameras in the waiting room at the county health department.
The 90-minute meeting Wednesday morning began with discussion of a previously approved bids for a half-dozen security cameras. The $2,233 bid specified five of the cameras would be installed at the county courthouse, with the remaining camera to be used for observation of the health department’s waiting area.
County Judge-Executive Charles Wallace, however, was then accused of seeking the health-department camera as a form of retaliation against county employees who have disagreed with him in recent weeks. Discussion between magistrates came to a 12-minute halt at one point as magistrates awaited copies of a document, following unexplained comments by Magistrate Clifford “Sodbuster” Roe, directed toward Magistrate Brad Brammell, regarding comments he allegedly made on a social media website.
Audience members reminded Wallace of the standard rules of order allowing him to move forward with the meeting, although the county judge seemed to pay no heed to the advice. Wallace also refused to recognize health department employees seated on the back row, including Rita Sexton, who told the board “You really need to listen,” before any further discussion or action.
Sexton told a reporter at the meeting that she had hoped to present information about the department’s Title 10 program, which includes about $47,000 per year in funds for things including family planning and STD tests, but would be eliminated if client confidentiality is compromised with a camera in the waiting area.
“Well, this is a study in efficiency,” said a man seated near the back row as the magistrates sat silently.
Discussion resumed after County Clerk Mike Johnston provided the group with minutes from the fiscal court’s January meeting, prompting Magistrate Brandon Burton to say to Roe, “What do you mean we don’t have a choice? Of course we have a choice.” Roe made a motion to accept a previous recommendation from the county’s emergency management director, although the motion died for lack of a second.
The security-camera issue came back before the fiscal court before the meeting ended, ending in a unanimous vote to approve purchase of the cameras without the stipulation that one of the units be installed in the health department’s waiting area.
As the fiscal court board turned its attention to a possible clerical error regarding voting precincts in the county, Roe repeatedly clarified that he was not accusing anyone of wrongdoing, but merely investigating a situation with county residents who want to continue voting where they have always cast their ballots.
Election board member Mignon Colley, who was in the audience, explained the voters in question had previously been listed in the wrong precinct, and an adjustment was made to bring the situation into compliance with state laws. Colley also reminded Roe and the fiscal court that the election board does not operate at the direction of county officials.
“We do not fall under the fiscal court whatsoever,” Colley said, adding the election board is responsible to the county’s residents and later inviting anyone with questions to attend an election board meeting at 2 p.m. April 15 for “one-on-one” discussions with no time limits.
District 2 Magistrate candidate Wayne Terry stood in the audience and admonished Roe after the magistrate had repeatedly directed audience members to stop talking as the precinct-and-voting discussion continued.
“This individual should never tell anybody to shut up,” Terry said, pointing out that he had been recognized by the county judge and allowed to speak, and stating Roe had repeatedly tried to run fiscal court meetings instead of Wallace conducting the sessions.
“You don’t deserve respect,” Terry continued before concluding to Roe, “You’re the most hateful, belligerent individual I’ve ever met,” and adding Roe’s behavior during fiscal court meetings is “an insult to the people of Carter County and Kentucky.”
Without acknowledging the comments, Roe directed County Attorney Patrick Flannery to investigate the source of any “clerical error” or any options to allow the voters in question to continue voting at their traditional polling place. Flannery responded that he has attended most of the election board’s meetings, and cited improved mapping and GPS technology for pointing out that some voters had been incorrectly assigned to certain voting precincts. Correcting those mistakes to bring all voters into compliance with state law seemed to be the appropriate action, he advised.
“The election board must rule that you vote where you live,” the county attorney said.
Before approving the minutes and adjourning, Magistrate Mary Ellen Greenhill expressed her frustration, following an abandoned request to turn off the fiscal court’s official video camera, allowing none to leave the room during a proposed 10-minute recess. Informed such a request would likely be illegal, Greenhill declared her independence from political concerns and asked audience members to stop being harsh and critical toward local elected officials.
“I am who I am by the grace of God. I’m tired of playing politics and being treated like I’m uneducated. I have been degraded. I have been talked about,” she said, imploring the audience members to take more time to listen to issues before the fiscal court “and try to help instead of always degrading.”
Citing her 48 years with her late husband, former Magistrate Ronnie Greenhill, the magistrate said people can disagree without becoming enemies.
“Quit humiliating and give us a chance to do what we need to do for the citizens of Carter County,” Greenhill said. “We can’t allow it to get out of hand anymore. It’s gone too far.”
Before returning to her seat, Greenhill announced her home telephone number to the audience and encouraged calls from residents, pledging to do whatever she can to help.
Without further explanation, Roe added he believes elected officials and county residents should also be careful with “what they put on Facebook.”
TIM PRESTON can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2651.