Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

April 27, 2013

Appeal filed in regional jail suit

Legality of regional authority challenged

FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Jailers Association and the jailers of Boyd and Carter counties have filed an appeal of a judge’s ruling dismissing a lawsuit challenging the legality the two counties’ formation of a regional jail authority.

KJA attorney Jim Deckard also filed a request for the extension of the injunction granted in September in the case. Both motions were filed Friday in Franklin Circuit Court.

The appeal addresses the ruling handed down April 17 by Judge Phillip Shepherd who granted a motion for summary judgment by the defendants in the suit, which, in addition to the two fiscal courts, included the Northeast Regional Jail Authority and the Kentucky Department for Local Government.

Shepherd found the interlocal agreement creating the NJRA was a “valid exercise of the authority” granted to the fiscal courts under state law and that the law “explicitly grants” two or more counties the ability to create a regional jail authority.

As to whether the establishment of the authority would usurp the authority of Boyd Jailer Joe Burchett and Carter Jailer R.W. Boggs, Shepherd said he could find nothing in the state constitution or in any enabling statute “that requires the county jailer to supervise, manage or be in any way involved in running the county jail.”

In the jailers association’s lawsuit, Deckard maintained the NRJA does not meet the state’s statutory definition for a regional jail authority because state law “limits the operation and maintenance of a regional jail to one jail that may be owned and operated by one county to hold prisoners for another county or a single jail owned and operated by two counties.”

But Shepherd found there was nothing in state law that prohibits an interlocal authority from operating multiple jails in multiple counties.

The motion for an extension of the injunction will be heard May 6 at 9 a.m.

Both parties agreed to the injunction, which barred the two fiscal courts from filing a copy of the interlocal agreement establishing the NRJA with the secretary of state and the county clerks of both counties. The injunction delayed the implementation of the NRJA until the court could consider the legal issues.

Boyd and Carter fiscal courts entered into an agreement last spring to operate the jails in the two counties under a single authority headquartered in Catlettsburg.

Proponents of the move, including Boyd Judge-Executive Williams “Bud” Stevens and Carter Judge-Executive Charles Wallace, maintain such an arrangement would promote efficiency and help both counties bring their spiraling jail costs under control.

Opponents, however, argued the move was a political play aimed at stripping power from Boggs and Burchett, both of whom have frequently found themselves at odds with the fiscal courts.

The interlocal agreement states the NJRA will commence operation when a governing board is appointed by Stevens and Wallace, a budget is prepared and approved by both fiscal courts and an agreement is reached between the NJRA and the counties on the use of respective jails in each county.

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