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Deputy judge-executive appointed

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Cole Bland named to new position, met with opposition from magistrates

By Josh Claywell

With little support from Taylor County’s six magistrates, Judge-Executive Barry Smith appointed Cole Bland as his deputy judge in Tuesday’s work session of the Taylor County Fiscal Court.

The appointment was met with resistance from the magistrates, most of who don’t believe Smith needed to appoint someone to that position.

Judge Smith said he’s “talked to several other judges” about the issue before deciding to go in this direction. Bland is the former director of the Taylor County Animal Shelter, a role he resigned from after just a few weeks.

Smith said Bland would not draw a salary as deputy judge executive for the time being, adding that the magistrates can re-evaluate that in the future.

“I just want to be up front with you and I’m not going to beat around the bush,” Smith told the magistrates. “I know a couple of you probably aren’t happy with me for doing this, but I’m going to give it a shot.”

All six magistrates — Dr. James Jones of District 1, John Gaines of District 2, Tommy Corbin of District 3, Zuel Yarberry of District 4, Derrick Bright of District 5 and Richard Phillips of District 6 — were reluctant to offer support for the move.

A lengthy discussion ensued, with Bright and Phillips voicing their displeasure.

“Did you meet with the personnel committee on this at all?” Phillips asked Smith.

Smith responded that it wasn’t required of him to talk to that committee, saying he could make the appointment without previous approval. Phillips then asked what wasn’t being done now that Smith needs to employ the use of a deputy judge, and Smith mentioned the animal shelter.

“It needs to be completely redone,” he said. “It needs painting, and he can go out there and help with that.”

Phillips said that was a job the county could hire someone for, and Bright said inmates at the Taylor County Jail are also available to work at the shelter.

The discussion then turned to the job description for Bland, which Smith said he didn’t have on hand at the meeting. Magistrates felt they need to approve that description before Bland can start in the role.

“If you’re appointing him to the Fiscal Court, we’ll still have to approve a job description for him. You can appoint him, but we approve the job description,” Bright said. “If you’re working for free, are you considered a volunteer? Is the county going to be liable for you? Do we have to bond him? What happens if he has an accident?”

Smith said Bland signed a contract stating the county wouldn’t be held liable if something does happen and that he won’t be reimbursed for mileage or receive any benefits.

Bright then asked why Bland wants to work for free. He brought up the issue of Bland asking for a raise after a few weeks on that job, speculating that the same thing will happen in the new position. Smith said Bland will be at the next fiscal court meeting and that Bright could ask that question then.

Moments later, Bright mentioned a quote Smith provided to the Central Kentucky News-Journal that Bland “couldn’t take the pressure” at the animal shelter.

“Why do you think that he can now handle the pressure that he is stepping up in?” Bright asked.

Smith said, “it’s a different day than it was then. There you go. I’ll give him a shot, see what he can do.”

The discussion continued for several more minutes, with the magistrates refusing to offer their support on the move.

“I think this opens us up for a number of legal issues. When you have somebody that’s not working on the payroll, they fall into a gray area,” Phillips said. “… This is my opinion after 13 years on this job. I think county government works best when there are clear roles: elected officials, employees and volunteers. But I think this is not a clear role. When you take a volunteer and make him deputy judge, I think that gets cloudy. I don’t think this is a good thing.

“I think Cole’s a good guy, I don’t have any problem with that, and it’s not personal. It’s not personal against you or anything. Administratively, this is a situation that may not work best for the county.”

In other news

• The county will receive a total of $676,207 in discretionary funds from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Department of Rural and Municipal Aid for resurfacing work on West Finley Road, Eastport Road, Raikes Hill Road and Moss Road.

The investment, according to a press release, supports Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s commitment to prioritize transportation infrastructure projects and increase economic opportunity across the state.

“I’m pleased to learn that Taylor County has received funding for these road resurfacing projects,” Sen. Max Wise said in the release. “This infrastructure upgrade will certainly benefit our community.”

The resurfacing work will address 5.24 miles on West Finley Road, 2.48 miles on Raikes Hill Road, 1.8 mils on Moss Road and 0.65 miles on Eastport Road.

• The court set the county tax rate and heard the Taylor County Public Library’s tax rate. Both will adopt the compensating rate, though the library’s was met with resistance from Bright.

He said the library shouldn’t be able to impose the compensating rate because it has nearly $2 million in its bank account.

Both measures passed after some discussion.

The next meeting of the Taylor County Fiscal Court is set for 5 p.m. Sept. 13 at the Taylor County Courthouse.