Tribune-Courier General Manager
Marshall County Judge Executive Mike Miller was cleared of criminal charges last week when a grand jury found there wasn’t enough evidence to return an indictment in a case involving the approval of unemployment benefits to a former county employee.
Special prosecutor Zac Greenwell, of Marion, presented the case to a grand jury of 12 members last week, with all charges dropped following the return of no true bill.
Miller expressed relief and a desire to move forward with the business of governing the county after the grand jury’s decision.
“This is a cloud that’s been hanging over our heads for almost a year now,” said Miller. “I’m ready to get back to business. If you will recall there was a special fiscal court meeting when these allegations were first brought forward last year. I’m not going to do any of that fanfare. I just want to get back to business.”
The investigation involved misdemeanor charges of misconduct and making a false entry in the public record, a class D felony.
They stemmed from allegations made last June by County Commissioner Misti Drew who questioned the payment of unemployment benefits to long-time dog warden Goldenrod Kirk.
Kirk had worked part-time for the county for more than 30 years, from 1982 until January 2013, when two part-time animal control officers were hired. Miller said Kirk did not want to continue in his role after the two were hired because his duties were going to change and he resigned his position.
Drew had contended she was under the impression Kirk had retired and alleged wrongdoing in the payment of benefits.
The fiscal court unanimously voted to retain the services of Louisville Attorney Kent Wicker of Reed and Wicker in Louisville to conduct an independent investigation in the matter last summer.
County Treasurer Emily Martin confirmed last week Wicker was paid $5,475 for his investigation and report to the county.
Before making its way to a Marshall County grand jury, the case then went to the Attorney General’s Office in Frankfort who appointed Greenwell to conduct an investigation.
Greenwell then requested an investigation by the Kentucky State Police who earlier this month returned a 100-page report of their findings.
Kirk repaid the unemployment funds he had received when allegations over his receipt of them arose.
“Reporting the issue was my obligation and I am glad to see the funds were repaid. Deciding someone’s fate was not in my hands, it was placed in the hands of a group of jurors,” said Drew.
“I said in an open court meeting that I would be happy to testify before a grand jury when this all first came up,” said Miller. “It ended up exactly where it would have ended up without the money spent on the special investigator so I don’t think that’s money well spent.”
“As the elected judge executive I’ve always run the county the way I thought it was supposed to be run. It’s the first time I’ve ever been before a grand jury,” he said.
“There have only been a few issues in the past few years that we have been divided over - but those are the ones that obviously get the media attention. I would argue that we have a spirit of cooperation on the court all the time, but when there are differences of opinion, we exercise our right to vote and that is what makes the system work. If we all agreed all the time and there was no pubic discussion, then I would say the system is not working as it should,” Drew said.
Miller is the longest serving judge executive in Kentucky.
He will seek an 11th term in the November election.
He is opposed by Republican candidate Kevin Neal.