Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

April 27, 2013

Suit against district realignment dismissed

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

GRAYSON — A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against the Carter County Fiscal Court over the issue of realignment of magisterial districts.

In a ruling handed down Tuesday, Special Carter Circuit Judge Bob Conley said he had determined a reapportionment plan approved by the fiscal court in December satisfied an order he issued in July directing the court to realign the districts, as well as the provisions of state law.

“It is therefore ordered that this action shall be removed from the court’s docket and no further action is required,” Conley wrote.

Grayson resident Mignon Colley filed suit against the fiscal court in October 2011 after the court refused to reconfigure the district. In the suit, Colley alleged Judge-Executive Charles Wallace and the court  “failed and refused to redraw the districts so they are compact, contiguous and the population of each district is as nearly equal as reasonably possible,” as required by Kentucky law.

In his July ruling, Conley said all parties involved in the case, including the fiscal court, were in agreement the court had failed to comply with the state’s statutory requirements about apportionment. He also ordered the court take all reasonable steps necessary to initiate reapportionment at its next meeting.

A realignment plan the court rejected in September 2011 was developed by a committee appointed to study reapportionment, as all counties are required to every 10 years after the census. The plan would have added a sixth magisterial district. The court also refused to consider alternative proposals and voted 3-2 to keep the districts as they were.

Prior to the vote, County Attorney Patrick Flannery warned the fiscal court it could be opening the county to litigation by refusing to reconfigure the districts. Under state law, he said, any resident who feels the districts are out of alignment could file suit and the county could ultimately be responsible for all legal fees in the matter, plus be court-ordered to reapportion.

Under the plan approved in December, which is based on populations figures provided by the FIVCO Area Development District, the districts are composed as follows:

District 1 — Iron Hill, Courthouse, Gregoryville, Oakland and North Midland Trail precincts.

District 2 — East Grayson/Stinson, South Midland Trail, North Rush, South Rush and Stovall precincts.

District 3 — Hitchins, Denton, Willard and Alpha Hall precincts.

District 4 — Soldier, Cedar Grove, Clark Hill, Eagle Hill, Pleasant Valley, Pleasant Hill and Grahn precincts.

District 5 would include Buffalo, Smokey Valley, Olive Hill Courthouse, Brickyard and Upper Tygart precincts.

The fiscal court was represented by outside counsel Richard W. “Sonny” Martin of Ashland in the reapportionment suit. Wallace said he believed Flannery could not represent the fiscal court because he had thrown it “under the bus,” which Flannery denied, saying he had only advised the fiscal court to follow the law.

The case was assigned to Conley after Carter Circuit Judge Rebecca Phillips recused herself, saying she wanted to avoid an appearance of favoritism to either party in the matter.

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