Russell Springs police chief, county judge have words over statement at fiscal court meeting
In July 17-23 issue By Greg Wells Times Journal Managing Editor
JAMESTOWN - A meeting of the Russell County Fiscal Court on Monday, July 14, began as something of a "bully pulpit," for County Judge-Executive Mickey Garner regarding the emergency dispatch services in the county and the conduct of that agency's board.
He began by praising the long service of Dispatch Supervisor Sheila McGaha, who resigned last week, and went on to blame the members of the dispatch board for any problems at the agency.
He repeatedly said that the statement by Russell Springs Police Chief Joseph M. Irvin last week that things were in "chaos" applied to the board's management.
He added he thought that Irvin was not being truthful when about his statement that the board was kept in the dark about the bank account created to house money paid to dispatch by the state.
Garner said one of the results of the present plan to place dispatch operations under the Russell County Ambulance Board would be that "the board will be changed, the new board will be all new. It can't be no worse."
Following Garner's statements, the court moved into a closed-door session. County Attorney Mark McGaha cited possible litigation against the fiscal court or against one of the members of the court as the reason for the court members and staff retreating into secret discussions.
Once they returned, Garner said the session had been to discuss litigation issues relating to the dispatch center.
When the court had returned to the public meeting after over a half-hour in secret, they had a new audience. Russell Springs Police Chief Joseph M. Irvin and Jamestown Fire Chief Tony Wright were on the front row.
Irvin indicated he wanted to address some of Garner's earlier remarks, but Garner went on to discuss a half-dozen or so other issues first.
Once they returned to the dispatch and ambulance board issues, Irvin questioned Garner about his earlier statements and said flatly that his statements had been absolutely accurate and Wright, who is also on the board, agreed.
Both men took exception to Garner's statements that the board was to blame for all the problems in the dispatch center. They said that the county judge was at meetings because he was involved in the enhanced 911 and reverse 911 conversions.
"I saw you at the board meeting after there were grievances filed against the dispatch supervisor," Wright told the judge.
Irvin said the "chaos" started in dispatch when Garner became involved with the employee decisions with McGaha rather then her dealing with her board on such issues.
"It all goes back to a campaign promise you made to protect her job," Irvin alleged.
Garner continued to tell the men they were aware of the bank account, since they had to know that the state was to pay dispatch that money.
Both said they were aware that the money was to come, but were not aware it had arrived and were not aware that a new account had been set up at the bank.
The dispatch board, like all boards in the county, is charged with overseeing the operations of their agency which includes dispatch center finances.
The two members of the board present at the meeting said they had been looking for the money in the monthly statements and when they pressed McGaha for answers, Irvin said that was when they found out about the other account.
Both men also said they had seen nothing to indicate anything improper was done with the money that was deposited, but indicated the board couldn't oversee finances they didn't know existed.
Garner said nothing had been paid out of the account, but Wright contradicted him.
"There have been checks written out of that account," Wright said. But he again said that the payments made out of the account were to pay for phonelines that the center used and that was part of what the money was for.
Garner made other allegations relating to Irvin and issues surrounding McGaha's resignation. Irvin disputed the allegations.
"I hope you can prove it," was Garner's closing remark on the subject.
In other matters before the court—
• An application for a PRIDE grant was approved, with magistrates Steve Bledsoe and Greg Popplewell in opposition.
• An amount less than $20,000 was approved for the purchase of a roll-off truck. The vehicle would be for the recycling center to use hauling dumpsters. Popplewell was the lone dissenter on that purchase.
• A $10,000 expenditure for a used tandem-axle dump truck was approved, and again Popplewell voted no. After the meeting and several positive votes by Popplewell on other matters, the magistrate explained he was not voting for additional spending by the court.
• A change in the minutes, approval of previous minutes and reports were accepted during the regular course of the court's business and the meeting ended roughly 2 hours after it began.
The discussion between Garner and the board members continued on as the audience and magistrates made their way out of the courtroom, and out of the courthouse.
The Times Journal is a weekly newspaper issued on Thursdays. It was first published on October 13, 1949, by Andrew J. and Terry Norfleet.
P.O. Box 190
120 Wilson St.
Russell Springs KY 42642
Russell County News is a weekly newspaper issued on Saturdays, and is mailed free to every address in Russell County, Ky. It was first published on February 1, 1913.
404 Monument Square
Jamestown KY 42629