Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 3, 2013

Former mayor pleads guilty

Under Sparks’ plea agreement, prosecutors to recommend 2-year sentence

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

GRAYSON — Former Olive Hill Mayor Danny Sparks pleaded guilty on Monday to a felony marijuana-trafficking charge.

Sparks, 56, entered a guilty plea in Carter Circuit Court to a charge of trafficking in marijuana within 1,000 yards of a school, a Class D felony that carries a one- to five-year prison sentence.

Under the terms of Sparks’ plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to recommend Sparks be sentenced to two years, and to “stand silent” on the issue of whether he should receive probation, said Sparks’ attorney, Robin Webb of Grayson.

Webb said she believed her client was a good candidate for probation, given his lack of a past criminal record.

Webb had originally sought diversion, under which Sparks’ record would be expunged after five years if he did not commit any other crimes. However, the commonwealth would not agree to that, she said.

She said Sparks “hated to take a felony,” mainly because of how the conviction could affect his future employment opportunities. However, she said Sparks also was anxious to have the matter behind him because he was busy caring for his young granddaughter and dealing with other personal matters.

Being a convicted felon also will render Sparks ineligible to run for public office again.

Judge Rebecca Phillips scheduled Sparks’ sentencing for Jan. 6 and allowed him to remain free on bond until then.

Sparks was arrested Nov. 28, 2012, after selling marijuana to an undercover informant working for the FADE Drug Task Force. The transaction took place in a parking lot near Olive Hill Elementary School, police said.

FADE said the investigation leading to Sparks’ arrest had been ongoing for several weeks.

Following his arrest, Sparks wrote a resignation letter in which he said he’d made a bad mistake and failed the city of Olive Hill and its people. However, that letter was never submitted to the city council.

Sparks, who’d been mayor since 2000, resigned a few days later. His brief, hand-written letter of resignation didn’t mention his arrest. Instead, it cited “present circumstances” and said resignation would be best for the city, the council and his family.

The council appointed one of its members, Kenny Fankell, to serve the remainder of Sparks’ term, which expires in December 2014.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.