Ouster suit filed against Knott judge-executive
HINDMAN — A suit to oust the Knott County judge-executive from office was filed Tuesday.
Floyd County Commonwealth’s Attorney Brent Turner, on behalf of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, filed a lawsuit against Knott County Judge-Executive Randy Thompson, a convicted felon, to have him removed from office since he has repeatedly refused to resign from his position on his own, according to the suit.
“This court, given its clear statutory and constitutional authority, should remove Randall Thompson from county office, with haste, to avoid irreparable harm to Knott County,” the suit stated.
The suit read that since Thompson has been convicted of a felony, and it is against the Kentucky Constitution for a felon to serve public office, then Thompson “must be removed from office.” Because he has not willingly resigned his position, the suit continues, Thompson has been deemed an usurper of a county office, giving the state the right to take ordinary action in filling his position.
Thompson and three other men were convicted in June 2008 on felony charges of theft of federal funds and conspiracy. The conviction came after allegations arose that Thompson had county blacktop and gravel used on private drives in exchange for votes in the 2006 general election. It was during this election that Thompson won his first full term of office.
Thompson was sentenced in February 2009 to serve up to 40 months in prison, however, he filed for an appeal to this ruling. Thompson and his co-defendants remained free until the appeal was denied in November 2012, and Thompson failed to appeal that decision before the 90-day time limit had expired. He is now serving his sentence in a federal penitentiary in Pennsylvania.
Although there is some precedence for a county’s own commonwealth attorney to remove officials from office, Knott County Commonwealth’s Attorney Graham Martin referred the matter to the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office, which appointed Turner to the case.
The suit also stated the county “is in dire need of enacting a budget, to avoid the loss of state and federal funds.” This, however, is impossible to do without a “duly functioning” judge-executive.
The Knott County Fiscal Court voted on Feb. 6 to stop funds for Thompson’s salary. Thompson’s attorney, Terry Jacobs, appeared before the fiscal court last week where he argued that the county could be open for a potential lawsuit were the magistrates to halt Thompson’s salary while he continued to hold the title of county judge.
Thompson is currently the second consecutive Knott County judge-executive to remain in office while in prison, and is serving his second full term after being re-elected in 2010 while on appeal. Former Judge Donnie Newsome remained in office for the entirety of his sentence for vote buying, and resigned only after being released from prison.
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