In Dec. 24 Issue
On the heels of last week's monthly meeting of the county's fiscal court, Judge-Executive Mickey Garner held a press conference last Friday concerning some of the topics at that meeting, including talk of an alcohol administrator and an ordinance setting fees and taxes to be collected as well as his relationship with County Attorney Mark McGaha, with whom he had words with early last week over those aforementioned issues.
"I did say some things I shouldn't have said as far as the language I used," Garner said of his confrontation with McGaha. "I don't deny that, I did do it but there was more to the story."
McGaha said last week the two were differing on the issue of the ordinance and the Alcoholic Beverage Control administrator's position.
Last week, the county attorney said his position was that the administrator can not approve applications inside the city.
Garner said he repeatedly asked McGaha what "his (expletive) job was" during last week's verbal exchange that resulted from a call to Garner from an unnamed local radio personality about a call that the personality had received from McGaha the Friday before the argument.
In that call, Garner said the radio personality told him McGaha said there were legal problems with the ordinance and that if the fiscal court and judge-executive acted on it they would be "doing themselves in."
"So yes, after I got that phone call I was very upset," Garner said. "If I feel like somebody is not doing what they're supposed to be doing, whether it is a magistrate, a road foreman or whatever I'll go to them and tell them, that's my job."
Garner said he had also had some problems with McGaha in the past where he felt like McGaha should have represented the fiscal court and instead sent one of his assistants. Garner said that representing the fiscal court in legal matters is what McGaha is paid his county salary to do.
Last week, McGaha also said that aside from the issue of the "moist" vote, there is the fact that it is the city's right to regulate businesses in the city, not the county's business to do so.
Garner said he was upset with McGaha's actions of taking the "moist" vote issue to the appellant court in Frankfort and not notifying him or the county clerk of the impending legal action he was set to take and using their names on the appeal. That action was later denied, as was an earlier appeal to the circuit judge, and the vote went on as planned on November 24.
"I felt like he was using it as a political game," Garner said. "I still think it is a political game to him and I don't like political games, I never have, I do like my job but I do not like that stuff."
In explaining the ordinance, Garner said officials in Frankfort told him that if the county did not adopt an ordinance, that would not stop businesses from applying for and receiving alcohol licenses. Without an ordinance, businesses applying for licenses would apply directly to the ABC in Frankfort instead of with the county.
Garner's emphasized again Friday that the ABC would start issuing licenses 60 days after the vote, based on their own interpretation, and that if the county did not have an ordinance in place it would not be able to collect the six percent surcharge on the gross receipts on all alcoholic beverage sales.
"Seventy-five percent of that the tourists would be paying," Garner said. "We were looking out for the best interests of the county."
A call to the ABC confirmed Garner's point on the ordinance. Janet Williams, an assistant director in the ABC's licensing division, and ABC General Counsel Peter Irvin both confirmed that if no ordinance was passed or administrator appointed by the county within 60 days of a valid election, businesses could apply directly to ABC for the chance to serve.
"We don't think that's necessarily a good idea," Irvin said. "It causes (the county) to lose revenue that (it) can collect by issuing a license. Unfortunately for us, there are things (the county) knows about applicants that we can't know about applicants in terms of their character within the community and in terms of location."
The ABC would then have to investigate all applicants to determine whether or not they would be able to serve based on their location and restaurant criteria.
The issue of the boundaries still seems to be in question to most.
Some believe that the No vote in Jamestown is controlling in the city limits, while the Jamestown and Lake Precincts' Yes vote outside the city limits pertains only to the areas of the precincts outside the city limits.
The other held opinion is that the precincts each voted to be wet, and they hold that a precinct can not be divided part-wet, part-dry, therefore all of Lake and Jamestown Precincts would be wet and that includes those parts of the precincts within the city.
Any vote on the issues was delayed until the January 11 meeting of the fiscal court when ABC officials would be present, or earlier if guidance can be obtained from Frankfort on the issue.
Garner said he was effectively washing his hands of the ordinance issue and that if it were to come up again, county magistrates or citizens would have to do so.