Tribune-Courier General Manager
Marshall County Fiscal Court voted in special session last week to hire Louisville attorney Kent Wicker to conduct an investigation involving alleged ethics violations by County Judge Executive Mike Miller. The July 2 meeting was a contentious one, with pointed discussion among commissioners and a vocal gallery of interested members of the community (see related story). Wicker was approved by the court in a split decision vote, with commissioners Terry Anderson and Misti Drew voting in favor and Bob Gold voting no. Miller abstained from voting on advice from his legal counsel. County attorney Jeff Edwards, who has contacted Wicker, endorsed the attorney, whose name was offered by Anderson in a previous meeting. “I feel comfortable that [Wicker] is not the type who’s going to be swayed,” Edwards said. “He’s very matter-of-fact and down to business. He’s a former U.S. attorney and he is all about business.” Edwards said Wicker disclosed one connection to Marshall County as owner of property on Jonathan Creek. When questioned about a possible conflict of interest due to Wicker’s status as a taxpayer, Edwards said he did not believe a conflict was posed. Edwards noted Wicker’s fee was $300 an hour and that he had not been given a cap on what could be spent on the investigation. “He indicated he didn’t think the investigation would take very long,” Edwards said. “I did discuss it with him, not the particulars, but he got the idea of what he would be doing and I think he plans on wrapping it up in a day.” Gold said he was not opposed to the investigation, but did not like that other alternatives were being ignored. “If we need to go forward and hire counsel, I would think we have an alternative and his fees would be approximately half (of Wicker’s) and I don’t know if he’s been given due consideration or not,” said Gold. Gold was referring to Hopkinsville attorney Jason Holland, whose name was presented by Edwards in a previous meeting.
Debate reveals divided opinions
By Venita Fritz
Tribune-Courier General Manager
Members of the public packed the courtroom July 2 for a special fiscal court meeting to discuss what has become a deeply divisive issue.
The selection of an independent investigator to consider alleged unethical behavior by county Judge Executive Mike Miller has stirred public sentiment, with some angered by the cost of the investigation and others calling it good government.
The charges against Miller were alleged by commissioner Misti Drew, who criticized the circumstance under which long-time Marshall County dog warden Goldenrod Kirk left the employment of the county earlier this year.
Drew said the court was informed of Kirk’s retirement, but later learned he was receiving unemployment and that a county document indicated Kirk was laid off/terminated.
Miller has acknowledged signing the document and said Kirk resigned his position after learning of changes to his job duties.
During last week’s meeting, fiscal court voted 2-1 to hire Louisville attorney Kent Wicker to investigate the matter. Wicker will be paid $300 per hour.
Marshall County resident Jerry Sykes was one of the residents who questioned the cost of the attorney and asked Drew if he had a say in the matter.
“So as a taxpayer you’re saying that I don’t have a say so in your discussion to hire an outside attorney when my tax money will be paying for this attorney?” asked Sykes.
“As a taxpayer myself, it was our intention to have this handled by someone local,” Drew said. “Due to the actions of other people we are unfortunately in a situation where we’ve had to seek outside counsel.”
Community members in the meeting began to voice displeasure with the decision and Drew said, “You don’t have to like it. That’s why we all go to vote and it’s our responsibility and our obligation as fiscal court members to do what we feel we’re elected to do by the people who elected us to office which may or may not be each one of you.”
Marshall County resident Ken Davis addressed the court, saying, “If this goes on any length of time and I know these lawyers, sometimes it can drag on six months or a year. Could it go on this long, because if you go that long you’re talking $100,000? Me as a taxpayer, I don’t want to pay it.”
Drew responded by saying, “If you would like, you can just give me a broom and we’ll sweep it under the rug. We can do that.”
At that point, Drew’s husband, Kelly, interjected from the crowd, “You have the right to know if there’s an ethical violation by an elected official in your community.”
As tensions continued to mount in the room, Miller silenced the crowd with his gavel.
Meanwhile, some members of the county who are unhappy with the decision to hire Wicker are calling on the community to show up at the court’s next meeting to express concerns.
“I’d like to see people stand outside with signs and let them know we are watching what is going on,” said resident Jamie Poe. “This is just crazy, all because someone got unemployment. This is nothing more than a political witch hunt. It’s time the citizens wake up,” he said.
Fiscal court will meet again on July 16 at 9:30 a.m.