The Carter County Fiscal Court voted Tuesday to authorize the county judge-executive to hire a new attorney to represent the county, “if needed,” for a lawsuit seeking a change in Carter’s voting districts.
Judge-Executive Charles Wallace said the county’s magistrates did not approve the hiring of any particular attorney for the reapportionment case during the special meeting, although the group did vote to give him the authority to hire new counsel if necessary. The legal matter resulted when Carter Countian Mignon Colley, who has frequently clashed with magistrates as well as Wallace, sued fiscal court after it refused to adopt a plan to realign the county’s magisterial districts.
Wallace said county officials believe they have reasons to hire counsel other than elected County Attorney Patrick Flannery to represent them in the reapportionment lawsuit.
“You can’t throw somebody under the bus and represent them,” Wallace said.
Flannery said he only advised fiscal court members “to follow the law,” later adding he plans to be involved in the legal action even if he is not acting as the fiscal court’s legal counsel.
“I want to participate in this case because I have a duty to the taxpayers of Carter County. My job is to make sure elected county officials follow the law,” Flannery said, noting he told fiscal court members they could not win the case regardless of who they hired to represent them.
“I attempted to prevent a lawsuit. They are free to hire whoever they want. My job is not to just tell them what they want to hear, but my style is not to argue with them about it.”
Flannery said he is uncertain about the judge-executive’s suggestion he threw county officials “under the bus. If encouraging the fiscal court to follow the law is throwing them under the bus, then I guess I did that,” he said. Flannery described the reapportionment issue as “a serious constitutional principle.”
In other business on Tuesday, magistrates were advised of additional funding available to deal with problems related to the flooding in the county during April 2011.
“Ninety-nine percent of it is creek-related,” Wallace said, explaining qualified contractors will perform the flood-related work under the supervision of the federal agency.
“We get repair (money). That’s what it comes down to.”
TIM PRESTON can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2651.