Tribune-Courier News Editor
BENTON – A Marshall County employee is filing suit against members of the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department and a county commissioner. According to documents filed with the Marshall County Circuit Court, former parks employee Shane Jaco has filed a wrongful termination and defamation suit following his dismissal last year.
Despite the initial firing, Jaco remains a county employee following an April 2011 court meeting in which the court split on whether or not to release him. He is a part of Marshall County’s special projects crew.
Sheriff Kevin Byars and detectives Matt Hilbrecht and Dan Melone are named as defendants in the case, along with commissioner Misti Drew. As bonded county employees, their legal defense is being provided by the Kentucky Association of Counties. Benton attorney Lisa Carter is handling the defense. Carter has filed motion for definitive statement in regard to the accusations against her clients.
“Any time there’s a lawsuit, we have to know what capacity each individual person is being defined as,” Carter said. “It’s not a point of argument, just a point of clarification.”
Carter said it is possible Jaco’s attorney will respond to the issues of clarity prior to the case’s first court date set for Feb. 20.
According to motions filed by Jaco’s attorney, William Deatherage of Hopkinsville, Jaco is seeking compensation for unlawful invasion and interference, lost wages, distress and legal expenses He is also requesting a jury to decide the matter.
The suit comes more than a year after Jaco was recommended to the fiscal court for a promotion at Mike Miller Park. During the recommendation process, commissioner Drew lobbied against it, citing previous criminal charges against Jaco. According to the motion filed in circuit court, Drew also provided a photo to the Park Board which allegedly showed Jaco with an alcoholic beverage in his hand while on park property.
The county investigated the allegation that Jaco was drinking on park grounds, although the fiscal court never clarified if the photo was taken during or prior to the Sheriff’s Department’s investigation.
Deatherage’s motion states that Drew “made derogatory public comments about [Jaco]” and “without proper authority, caused or encouraged defendants Byars, Melone and Hillbrecht to undertake an investigation of [Jaco]”. Deatherage also alleges the Sheriff’s Department questioned Jaco without proper authority and recorded the interrogation without consent.
Jaco was subsequently released from county employment in March, but won an April appeal and was reinstated to the county’s special projects crew. Deatherage contends this amounted to a loss of income for Jaco.
On January 18, Circuit Court Judge Dennis Foust filed an order to recuse himself from the case, asking for a special judge to hear the case.
The matter is set to appear in circuit court Feb. 20.