The public outcry following the sudden termination of former Marshall County Emergency Management Director Curt Curtner has been loud and borderline overwhelming. And a vague press release which raised more questions than it answered issued by Marshall County Judge-Executive Kevin Neal only charged the social media storm last week.
About a quarter after 2 p.m. on Jan. 21, just a few hours after a Marshall County Fiscal Court meeting, Curtner confirmed he had been "relieved of [his] duties" by Neal and shortly afterward issued a statement on his personal social media account saying he would no longer serve in that capacity after 4:30 p.m. the same day.
Just before 4 p.m. on Jan. 21, Marshall County Parks Director Britney Heath, who also serves as media relations for Neal, issued a statement on behalf of Neal which confirmed he had terminated Curtner. The statement, which was also shared on the Marshall County Fiscal Court's Facebook page, said Neal had "identified a need for a full time commitment to the emergency management department," noted Curtner serves as a deputy coroner and that Kentucky Revised Statute assigned the appointed position as one which serves "at the pleasure of the county judge-executive."
Marshall County Coroner Michael Gordon took to social media later that evening to defend himself and Curtner after "some folks have implied or outright falsely accused [the coroner's office] as a factor" in Curtner's dismissal. He said Curtner had no duty hours in his capacity as chief deputy coroner Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. and when he was on call, it was from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m.
"And even then [when he was on call], his EM (emergency management) job came first," he added. "…If a drowning happened on a Sunday, he was there as EM director and called me to handle the body."
Gordon went on to say he has known Curtner more than four decades and even when times got tough covering all the duties while they awaited the other deputy coroner to finish training, "Curt never allowed his duties as EM director to be compromised by his duties as a deputy coroner."
Commissioners Kevin Spraggs and Monti Collins responded to inquiries made by The Tribune-Courier, confirming they were not included in the decision to terminate Curtner and were unaware of Curtner's termination until after it happened.
Spraggs said he learned Curtner had been fired in the same way many others in the community learned the news -- he saw it on social media.
"That position is appointed solely by the judge-executive, as is the responsibility of his replacement. The commissioners only have a say in the pay for that replacement," said. "I think it's a huge loss for Marshall County, losing Curtner; he has proven that he is passionate about his job, and his expertise speaks for itself. He has always been very compassionate toward victims and their families. I wish him the best, and wherever he ends up will certainly be blessed to have him."
Collins said he couldn't speak to the merit of Curtner's dismissal because he was not involved in that discussion because the appointment nor the firing went through the fiscal court.
"I have all the respect in the world for Curt. I've known Curt for several years, personally and professionally, and think the world of Curt and his family," he said.
Collins noted both of Curtner's sons are law enforcement officers in Marshall County and his son-in-law is also an officer in Marshall County.
"And I always think that speaks volumes when your children see how involved you are in the community and in turn become involved in the community like his children have," he said. "He's been an integral part of the emergency services for a number of years, as a volunteer or as the director. And I certainly thank him for that service. I also, quite honestly, selfishly hope he remains involved in whatever capacity he feels comfortable because I feel like he has been an asset to our emergency services for years. Hopefully that will not change."
As of press time, Commissioner Justin Lamb had not responded to The Tribune-Courier's inquiry.
The Tribune-Courier filed an open records request on Jan. 22 and received a response on Monday, Jan. 27 just prior to press time, too late for inclusion in this article. The documents requested included logged data reflecting the number of hours Curtner worked each week for the past six months; his personnel file, including but not limited to any and all reprimands, both formal and informal; the job description with which Curtner was provided when he was appointed to the position by former Judge-Executive Chyrill Miller in fall 2015 and the job description with which he was provided when he was re-appointed to that position by Neal.
The press release issued by Heath said Neal was considering who might serve as interim emergency management director but as of press time, that name had not been released. According to a post on the fiscal court's social media page, Neal is accepting resumes for the position until noon Jan. 31, submitted via email to email@example.com.
During last week's fiscal court meeting:
• The fiscal court members approved seeking bids for the concessions at the Mike Miller Park in Draffenville. Heath said the contract this year reflected some changes which will allow for food trucks to come into the park for special events and requiring the concession stands utilize the park's software which will compile daily and weekly data, as well as allow concessions to accept credit cards for payment.
• The fiscal court members approved accepting a janitorial bid for the Marshall County Judicial Building from Magic Steam for $10,000 per month. Bradie Janssen, co-owner of the business, said the bid provided for all janitorial needs and the cost of of all janitorial supplies, as well as a full-time staff member who would be present in the judicial building during regular business hours. Marshall Circuit Judge Jamie Jameson told the fiscal court members having janitorial staff on-hand during business hours was necessary because members of the public expelling bodily fluids on the floors of the clerk's office was a regular occurrence.