Editor’s note: This article is an update on the Hazard Herald’s report from the Feb. 16, 2016 Perry County Fiscal Court meeting. This article includes the original report with updated information afterwards.
HAZARD — The Perry County Fiscal Court held its regular monthly meeting on Feb. 16. All members of the Fiscal Court were present, which include Judge Executive Scott Alexander, Magistrate District 1 Keith Miller, Magistrate District 2 Ronald Combs and Magistrate District 3 Kenny Cole. It is customary for the County Attorney to also be on hand for fiscal court meetings, which he was for the month of February. A few local citizens were also in attendance to see the meeting.
The court approved all of the standard agenda items, which consist of the minutes from last month’s meeting, the Treasurer’s Report and the payment of all bills acquired since the previous meeting adjourned. Beth Caudill gave a positive report for the Senior Citizens Center. Caudill informed the court that the center had been checking on seniors during the winter storms to make sure they are safe. Tony Eversole also gave a positive report for the Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office placed a great deal of work into transports during the winter weather to help citizens, which included assistance for the hospital, Hospice and the Dialysis Center in terms of transport for patients in need. Amendments to the Perry County Administrative Code were approved, which will make it possible for new hires to have less of a wait time before earning sick days and vacation time. The purchase of a new truck for county business was approved. The grants report given by Benny Hamilton outlined the progress of grants the county is seeking. Don Howard also gave an assessment of 9-11 stats. Both the grants report and the 9-11 report showed indication of positive work by the departments.
The floor was open to the public after the reports were given, at which time Eddie Campbell addressed the Fiscal Court. He was granted three minutes to speak, as is the standard procedure. This is the exchange shared by Campbell and Judge Alexander:
“I’m here to address concerns I think we all should have,” said Campbell, “I’ve looked at invoices since Jan., 2015, since you took office; Fiscal Court records, interviews. So what I say is well documented. I’ll start with Jan., 2015. When this court took office, hourly wage employees were released, some were released, and replaced with contract personnel; contract wage of about $28 an hour replacing guys that were being paid about $15 an hour. Now, I know there are some extra costs that go along in budgeting the hourly wage, but I’ll leave it at that right now. The contract wage is about double the hourly wage. Records show a consistent weekly payout for one courthouse maintenance person of about $1,600. Now, I am sure you guys are aware of this. I’m sure you are. Another contract was a grader operator, same money. That contract was awarded to a guy named Scott Brashear, Reliable Resources. Invoices between the 5th of January and the 30th of November show that Reliable Resources were paid in excess of $91,280 and some change for contract work. No questions. No review by the minutes of the Fiscal Court. No approval by either the Fiscal Court or my dear friend, John, the County Attorney, or nothing that I can find in the minutes. One of those courthouse maintenance employees has since filed a wrongful termination suit because he was let go on day number two. I guess that’s a non resolved problem. And then on another matter, when the central air unit failed, you, Mr. Alexander, without confirming or without any consultation with the Fiscal Court, or none that I can find in the record, employed Customized Plumbing Service operated by Stephen Gibson; I’m not acquainted with him. I’m sure he’s a nice guy. When you get benefits and contracts handed to you, most people take them. They probably don’t check to see if they are legal or not.”
“I want the community to know, “Alexander said,”I’m going to do local business every, single time I can. And I have done everything right here legally. I am going to continue doing local business regardless of what he says. That’s me.”
“I’m a full supporter of local business,” Campbell responded, “I am a local business person. The issue, Scott, is the approval and consultation with this body of gentlemen right here, who are put here to approve or disapprove. Basically, they keep you in check and you keep them in check as to wise expenditures of the money that we all pay into. But you approved that without a bid, which is an absolute no-no, a KRS violation. And I am not here to just get you on KRS violations.”
“We have given you everything you have asked for,” said Alexander, “You’ve never one time said, hey can I sit down and talk to you. You’ve never talked to me about this.”
“I shouldn’t need to talk to you about that,” Campbell responded.
“We would have addressed it, and then you could have addressed it here. There is a proper way to do things,” said Alexander.
“Here’s the thing. There are seminars. There is training in Frankfort about the do’s and don’ts. They give you this information, the do’s and the don’ts, and the don’ts are put in place to protect all of us. Now, that bid process is put in place for a good reason. You’re aware of that.”
“I’m going to make a motion that we adjourn,” said Alexander, “If you want to meet with me and discuss this stuff, we will. Everything you have discussed up to this point has been in front of the Fiscal Court.”
Campbell urged the magistrates not to second the judge’s motion on the grounds that the information he has obtained is of importance to, not only the people, but to the magistrates, as well. Judge Alexander made the motion to adjourn once again, which was then seconded by Magistrate Ronald Combs, and the court voted to adjourn.
The complaints Campbell delivered in the time the judge allotted him during the Fiscal Court meeting pertained mostly to what is commonly known as “the bid law.” The bid law Campbell brought into question is KRS 424.260, and the law states that local government must place all county commissioned jobs that equal a payment of $20,000 or more up for bids with the public, with certain exceptions granted; exceptions which would not apply to the contracts in question, according to Campbell. As laid out by KRS 424.260, all bids for such jobs must be properly advertised to the public, with any qualified entity able to join the bidding and whichever qualified entity bids the least amount of cost to do a job for local government wins the contract. This law exists to prevent local government from simply handing out high paying contracts to close connections.
During the Feb., 2016 Fiscal Court meeting, Eddie Campbell accused Judge Alexander of handing out numerous high paying contracts, with no bids opened for the jobs, which would constitute a violation of Kentucky’s bid laws. One contract Campbell highlighted was granted in the summer of 2015 for the installation of 15 window unit air conditioners in the Perry County Courthouse. According to fiscal court records, obtained by the Hazard Herald, the payout for this job equaled $28,399, but evidence of a bid placed with the public for this job was not present in minutes from the Perry County Fiscal Court meetings through June 16 of 2015, which is the date records show the payment for the job was made.
Between Jan. of 2015 and Nov. of 2015, public records show that the Perry County Fiscal Court paid an overall total of $100,935.11 to the same contractor, who performed the window unit air conditioner installations, for various jobs, including projects at the courthouse and in the Perry County Park. Campbell alleged, during the Fiscal Court meeting, the contractor was not licensed to perform the work for which he was hired at the time.
Another item of Campbell’s dissertation includes contracting by the Perry County Fiscal Court for a job which revolves around a termination of employment that Judge Alexander has had to address in a wrongful termination lawsuit still pending in court. A judgment in the case has not yet been handed down. Campbell’s allegation is that a contracted employee was commissioned to replace the employee whose position was terminated at a higher rate of cost to taxpayers than what the Fiscal Court was originally paying the employee, who was let go. Public records obtained by the Hazard Herald show that a total of $91,280.89 was made by the Fiscal Court to the contractor in question through November of 2015. This total was not delivered in a lump sum, but rather spread out into multiple payments with the two largest single payments coming on the date of June 16, 2015. On that date, the contractor received a payment of $11,276 and a payment of $10,598 for a combined total of $21,874. There is no specification in the public records obtained by the Hazard Herald as to the type of work the money was allocated to perform.
Following the Feb., 2016 Fiscal Court meeting, Eddie Campbell delivered the list of complaints he compiled to the Hazard Herald. The only complaints addressed in this article are the ones he voiced during the public meeting and the information gathered for this article comes from public records obtained by the news reporter independently, and not records provided by Campbell himself. The records were gathered to help substantiate or refute any claims voiced during a public meeting, which the Hazard Herald has the responsibility to report for the community.
The Hazard Herald reached out to Judge Alexander for further comments prior to the publication of this report. Alexander reiterated the statements he made during the Fiscal Court meeting that he has operated legally. Currently, Judge Alexander is in Frankfort to address the Kentucky Legislature about issues concerning state methods of distributing coal severance tax funds. He will be back in town when he is finished with his presentation to the legislative authority.
All activity by the Perry County Fiscal Court is public record, which includes contracts, payments made by the court and minutes of the monthly Fiscal Court meetings. The Hazard Herald will update further developments.
Sam Neace can be reached at 606-629-3243 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.