Barren revamps ethics code


Posted: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 10:46 am

By JUSTIN STORY The Daily News jstory@bgdailynews.com/783-3256 | 0 comments

GLASGOW ­— The Barren County Ethics Commission has begun the process of revamping the county’s ethics code, and commission chair James Nelson sought input from the Barren County Fiscal Court on Tuesday.

The county’s code of ethics, which applies to county employees and elected officials, was enacted in 1994 and has not been amended since 1996.

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Nelson said he has been going over the code of ethics used by the Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Ethics Commission and drawing on it for ideas that can be applied to an amended Barren County ethics code.

“We’re going to start having work sessions soon,” Nelson said.

Before then, though, Nelson approached the fiscal court for suggestions.

Magistrate Carl Dickerson recommended a distinction be made when the ethics code defines “family member,” suggesting that it apply only to immediate family when officials make financial disclosure statements, while encompassing all relatives when it comes to hiring and nepotism regulations.

The five-member ethics board is appointed by the Barren County Judge-Executive to one-year terms. Each member’s term, however, expires April 19, so Nelson asked magistrates to consider staggering the appointment of board members.

Nelson also sought the court’s input on term limits for board members, something he favors.

“I think the more people you involve in the operation of the county, the better off we are,” Nelson said. “I’ve been here 15 years on this and that’s too long.”

Magistrate Chris Steward said he felt it was “most necessary” for board members to attend a training session within 12 months of the adoption of the new ordinance and once every 24 months thereafter.

Steward also asked whether there would be a mechanism for the ethics commission to levy fines or some other punishment against someone who brings a complaint deemed frivolous or without merit.

“This is a very powerful weapon in the hands of someone that could use it for political purposes,” Steward said.

Steward was recently the object of a complaint brought before the ethics commission by Barren County Jailer Matt Mutter.

In a special meeting in September, the commission determined Steward was not acting in an official capacity when he visited the retirement party of a former jail employee who has a pending lawsuit against Mutter and the county.

The board dismissed the complaint, though Mutter has said that he did not file the complaint to exact any political retribution and he has no personal issues with Steward, a candidate for judge-executive who has clashed with the jailer in the past.

Nelson said he would welcome additional suggestions from magistrates leading up to the board’s next scheduled meeting April 19.

In other business Tuesday, the fiscal court:

•Approved two additional election workers per precinct in the city of Glasgow to handle turnout in the May primary election. Barren County Clerk Joanne London said she anticipated a large turnout for the primary in the 12 precincts because of mayoral and city commission elections.

Those additional workers, plus an additional two workers in both of Cave City’s electoral precincts, will work the general election in November.

•Voted to allow the Barren County Road Department to use a $13,754 purchase order to pay for a truck to replace a 2004 GMC that was stolen.

The stolen truck was recovered, but damaged beyond repair, and the Kentucky Association of Counties paid $10,850 in reimbursement.

The road department has been the victim of two recent burglaries resulting in the theft of three trucks. In addition to the 2004 model, a 2002 truck was also damaged beyond repair, resulting in a $6,089 reimbursement to the county. The third truck was recovered in working condition, but missing all of its tools.

The fiscal court approved the purchase order by a 6-1 vote, with Magistrate John Benningfield opposing because the replacement truck was coming from a Bowling Green dealership instead of one in Barren County.

— Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter at twitter.com/jstorydailynews or visit bgdaily news.com.

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