in recent weeks,
By Jody Norwood
Tribune-Courier News Editor
BENTON – Following nine nearly nine months of criticism and the firing of two employees, all but one member of the North Marshall Water board has been replaced.
At a special called meeting Thursday night, the Marshall County Fiscal Court appointed three new members to the water board. Earlier in the week, the court had appointed Bob Draffen to fill the remainder of Gary Clark’s term on the board. Clark resigned in July. Draffen will be joined by Kendra Capps, James Leonard and Jerry Miller.
Along with the four new members is Billy Driskell, the lone member of the former board which was the target of concerns over spending and debt incurred by the district.
“We had a hearing on Tuesday in regard to a letter that the court sent to each one of the members asking for explanations of their actions on some things,” Judge Executive Mike Miller said. “Procurement, lateness of bills paid. We gave each member a chance to explain their position.”
The court first considered board member Bob Turner, whose term expired July 1. The court had not taken any action to replace Turner, who had continued to serve on the board through July.
“We waited on making any recommendation until after the hearing was conducted,” Miller said. Miller submitted Capps as a candidate to fill Turner’s seat. The court unanimously agreed.
“I appreciate the confidence of the fiscal court in giving me this appointment,” Capps said. “I look forward to working with Bobby gifford and the other commissioners. It takes a lot of people to keep things moving forward.”
Capps was a 12-year Calvert City council member and served on their planning and zoning commission. She was also involved in city planning for a number of years prior to her election.
Miller said he spoke at length with Hargrove, who tendered his resignation from the board. Hargrove’s letter thanked the court for allowing him to serve, but cited “temperament and bias” on the board as reasons for his resignation.
James Leonard was nominated to fill out Hargrove’s remaining term, which will expire June 30, 2013. The court unanimously agreed.
Leonard, of Palma, is an employee of Ashland Chemical with experience in environmental engineering.
The court recommended Jerry Miller to fulfill the remainder of chairman BW Darnell’s term. The nominee is no relation to Judge Miller.
The term runs until June 30, 2013.
“Jerry is no relation to me,” Judge Miller said. “He moved here from Louisville. He was the CEO of Norton’s Hospital for many years. He ran two hospitals in Saudi Arabia.”
Darnell was a 27-year member of the North Marshall Water Board and its longest serving member. Commissioner Misti Drew motioned to remove Darnell. Commissioner Bob Gold voted in favor of the removal, while commissioner Terry Anderson recused himself from voting.
The four new members will join Driskell, whose term expires June 30, 2013. Commissioner Drew motioned to table any action against Driskell, citing the “timeline” of events.
Thursday’s meeting followed a special hearing Tuesday where board members were given the opportunity to defend their removal for failing to follow requirements for public procurement in relation to the purchase of radio-read water meters. The meters incurred nearly a $1 million debt for the water district. Poor business practices and poor record keeping were also cited as reasons for possible removal.
Driskell was not a member of the board during the purchase of the water meters, but was during instances of poor business practice and record keeping as cited in a report given by interim water superintendent Bobby Gifford.
Gifford was appointed following the dismissal of Brad Anderson, son of commissioner Terry Anderson.
Driskell spoke out against removing Brad Anderson from his position as superintendent. Driskell also voted in favor of dismissing bookkeeper Paul Boling. Boling, who filed complaints with the board about business practices, was suspsended and fired in July.
At Tuesday’s hearing with the court and water board, each member of the board was given an opportunity to defend their possible removal. Darnell and Turner commented on a divisiveness on the board that had prevented the district from correcting some of the actions taking place. Turner also defended purchasing the radio-read meters without putting the acquisition our for bid.
“It was costing us 11 days and four men to read the meters,” Turner said. “It took us probably two years to make the decision to buy these things. We looked at these things long enough that we were sure what we wanted.”
Turner said the company they went with fit their needs and had software compatible to their systems. Turner said the purchase of the meters trimmed reading times down to a little more than two-days, but criticized the district for keeping the same amount of employees despite the labor-saving investment.
On Thursday, Miller said the court had worked to find qualified new board members.
“One of the things we have strived for as a court is to appoint members who have not been involved in any of the controversy at the district,” Miller said, noting they had received several notices of interest prior to the court taking action. “We’re looking for people who are willing to serve with nothing other than the future of the district in mind. We had several names we had considered.”
Training for new board members has been scheduled for this week.