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Board of Elections votes to hire attorney in mayoral election case

Board of Elections vote leaves question of how the legal fees will be paid in light of failure, in two votes, to gain Fiscal Court approval. One vote was to lay the burden of the decision on the County Clerk, who would decide whether to pay the fees from her office's budget. The other was a straight up vote on whether Fiscal Court would continue payments for the outside attorney to represent the Board of Elections in the case, now in the Kentucky Supreme Court.
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By Ed Waggener

Following a fiscal court meeting which saw the Adair County Board of Elections lose in two separate votes which would have county taxpayers foot the bill for the Board's legal challenges to Judge Judy Vance's ruling invalidating the City of Columbia's Mayoral Election, the Board voted to proceed on its own to hire Attorney James Howard to represent them to answer a motion by Attorney Elmer George seeking a discretionary review of a 2-1 decision in the State Court of Appeals not to review an earlier 2-1 decision reversing Judge Vance's ruling.

The action came after an executive session which followed the votes in Fiscal Court. County Clerk Lisa Greer, aske about who would pay the legal fees, said that had not been decided.

One route, suggested by Magistrate Terry Hadley in a note to Judge Stephens, was that a private fund be established to pay the fees. Hadley promised to contribute $50 to that fund, and Judge Stephens - who is adamantly opposed to the county footing the bill - said that he would also contribute a like amount.

The two votes taken in Fiscal Court died when they resulted in tied votes.

The first vote was on a motion by Magistrate Billy Dean Coffey (District 5), to allow County Court Clerk Lisa Greer, should she choose to do so, to pay the fees out of her office fund, on an emergency basis. The vote was 3-3 on that motion, with Coffey being joined by Magistrates Greg Caldwell (6), and Magistrate Harold Burton (1). Magistrates Daryl Flatt (2), and Perry Reed (4) voted against that plan, and Judge Stephens also voted no.

The second vote, for the county to pay for the money out of the general fund, also died with because of a tie vote.

While it was not stated in open court, had either of the votes gone in favor of the Board of Elections, the money ultimately would have come from Fiscal Court's General Fund. This is because the county receives excess fees from the clerk's office, and had the legal fees been added to Clerk Greer's expenses, the amount would have resulted in a dollar-for-dollar deduction from those excess fees.

Questions were raised in the meeting as to the legality of the plan, and whether or not it would put the clerk in jeopardy should that maneuver be later adjudged improper or illegal.

Magistrate Sammy Baker (3), was not present and there was no indication as to how he would have voted.

Magistrate Terry Hadley did not attend, but ask Judge Stephens to read his note, that because of the tight budget, the he was opposed to footing any more bills for the the Board of Election's legal fees.

The votes this morning were in sharp contrast to an earlier vote to pay a $5,000 legal bill incurred by the board without consultation with the court. In that action, all seven magistrates voted to pay the bill with only Judge Stephens opposing it.

This story was posted on 2016-01-04 16:36:04
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Judge Stephens talks to community activist Margo Miller

2016-01-04 - Basement, Adair Annex, 424 Public Square, Columbia, KY - Photo by Ed Waggenere.
Adair CJE Mike Stephens took time to thank Margo Miller for attending the two meeting relating whether or not the county would pay legal fees for the next round - now in the Kentucky Supreme Court - of litigation in the Nov 4, 2014 City of Columbia Mayoral Election. Miller often attends local government meetings, and recently nominated Sharon Shields-Smock for the vacant seat on the Columbia-Adair Utilities District Board of Commissioners. Two votes, either of which would have cost the county's general fund, died when tie votes were recorded for each one. -EW

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