Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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May 9, 2014

Judge steps aside in Flatwoods chief’s suit

GREENUP —

A judge on Friday disqualified himself from hearing a lawsuit filed against the city of Flatwoods by its suspended police chief.

Saying he risked conflict of interest no matter which he ruled, Greenup Circuit Judge Bob Conley recused himself from the matter, which was filed in his court this  by Kraig Hankins’ attorney, Kenneth Reed of Ludlow.

Details of the suit aren’t known because Conley ordered the file seal. However, at Friday’s hearing, Conley said the two matters immediately before him were to grant Reed’s motions for a temporary injunction that would halt a hearing before the city council that could lead to Hankins’ removal as chief and to permanently seal the case record.

Conley did not rule on either motion, saying it would leave it up to the special judge who’s appointed to the case to do so.

Hankins’ disciplinary hearing was scheduled for 9 this morning. Conley said it was the city’s call whether to proceed with that and sources said it planned to do so.

Hankins, who was hired in 2012 to replace retiring Chief Tom Haynes, was suspended with pay last month by Mayor Bobby Crager on allegations involving. insubordination, mismanagement of the department and sexual harassment of a female city employee. Saturday’s hearing will essentially serve as a trial on those charges, with Crager serving as the judge, City Attorney Stephen McGinnis as the prosecutor and members of the city council as the jury.

 At the end of the proceeding, the council can vote to fire Hankins or to reinstate him to duty. If the ruling is to fire Hankins, the chief can appeal it in Greenup Circuit Court.

It isn’t known whether the hearing will be conducted behind closed doors or in public. That decision will be up to Hankins and Reed.

Crager has said he isn’t at liberty to discuss the situation because it involves a personnel matter.

Hankins assumed command of the department on Aug. 1, 2012, the date Haynes’ retirement became effective. The city council voted to hire the retired Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives senior agent, who was the choice of both Crager and the committee appointed to search for Haynes’ successor.

Hankins was one of three chief candidates not already employed by the department.

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

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