The Barren County Sheriff’s Office has not charged a state-mandated $10 fee for off-site vehicle inspections, but will start doing so after an office deputy brought up the issue Monday to the Barren County Fiscal Court administrative committee.
Danielle White, civil/criminal process specialist, asked for the exit interview because she didn’t want responsibility for omitting the fee to fall back on her. She requested the interview in a resignation letter she submitted to Sheriff Kent Keen on Feb. 27.
She told the Daily Times she has accepted a state judicial system job in Louisville. Her last day at the sheriff’s office is Friday.
Danielle White’s father, Deputy Shannon White, is one of two candidates running against Keen for the Democratic nomination for sheriff. Keen was asked after the meeting whether he thought Danielle White’s approach to the matter might have been politically motivated.
“Obviously, I don’t know that for sure, but it does come to my mind, yes,” he said.
Danielle White, asked whether she was driven by politics, said “absolutely not.”
Keen said he did not know in advance what would be addressed at the meeting, so he couldn’t prepare information in response. But he said Monday that a memo would be drafted instructing the staff to collect the fee.
“It will be corrected,” he said.
Danielle White actually asked for an interview with the personnel committee, but Barren County Attorney Jeff Sharp said the administrative committee – Barren County Judge-Executive Davie Greer and magistrates Tommy Matthews, Gary Gillon and Chris Steward – is the closest thing to that. Matthews was absent Monday due to illness.
Sharp said fiscal court has limited authority over the management of departments such as the sheriff’s office and the jail, which are run by elected officials.
Kentucky Revised Statute 186A.115 says a $5 fee is to be paid to the sheriff’s office for any completed vehicle inspection. The law also calls for an additional fee of $10 per trip when an inspector travels away from the sheriff’s office to inspect a vehicle.
Danielle White said the office averages at least one call a day from car lots requesting inspections. The office also does off-site inspections at the request of individuals – for example, people whose insurance has expired, making it illegal for them to drive to the office. On Monday, the office had three requests for off-site inspections, one from a car lot and two from individuals, Danielle White said.
“This is an issue because it was brought to Kent’s attention almost immediately after he was appointed as our sheriff back in August,” White said during the meeting. “The office had not charged the $10 per trip fee, but that was something I couldn’t do anything about. I mean, it was brought to their attention, just like I brought it to Kent’s.
“The reason I’m saying anything about it now is because after I leave, that’s revenue that is missing upon any type of audit or anything like that. By us not charging that $10 to go to the local car lots, that local trip fee, we’re breaking that KRS, and I’m the one who puts that in the computer. So it’s my name on those receipts.”
White said she began working part-time in the office in early November 2012, then started full time on Jan. 18, 2013. Steward pointed out that this was during former Sheriff Chris Eaton’s tenure and asked White if she charged the fee under Eaton.
“They have never been collected,” White said. “That wasn’t a concern of mine until I’m leaving.”
Steward asked whether she brought the issue to Eaton’s attention. She said she had not.
“The reason for that is because I was new at the time,” she said. “Quite frankly, I didn’t feel like that was something I needed to be addressing.”
Steward said Keen was new and had a lot to learn, and that it would be impossible for Keen to immediately know all the rules.
“I can see where there could be an oversight, but as long as we are in compliance with this law, which is obviously mandatory, I don’t see any problems,” Steward said. “As long as we are going to start doing it, I’d say the matter is settled, in my opinion.”
After the meeting, Keen confirmed that Danielle White had discussed the issue with him.
“However, as Mr. Steward pointed out, there were a lot of things going on, me being new. We did make some corrections to that,” Keen said. “Evidently, we didn’t get them all.”
White later said Monday’s meeting was the first time she’d spoken about the issue since talking to Keen about it in August.
“I don’t feel like it’s my job to badger him about it,” she said. “He knew it was a KRS. He knew what the KRS stated, and he chose not to follow it.”
Shannon White said he didn’t know until the weekend what his daughter planned to address in the meeting.
“This has nothing to do with me and Kent at all, in no way shape or form,” he said. “Danielle was in a spot, working for the sheriff and me running for sheriff.”
Shannon White said his daughter and Trevor Phillips, another office deputy, had researched the law and brought it to the staff’s attention, but “it never went any further.”
“Now it’s public record and it can’t be brought back on her after she leaves here,” Shannon White said. “It wasn’t politically motivated. I think she made that clear in her statement. She was grateful for the opportunity.”
About two dozen people attended the meeting – a turnout Shannon White thought was “quite a show” and was due to people being asked to support the sheriff. Shannon White said he and Danielle White’s mother were the only people who came on his daughter’s behalf.
Keen said he invited family and friends and that they probably invited others. When some asked Keen if they could attend, he told them it was an open meeting.
“They were in support of me, yes,” he said. “Is there anything wrong with that?”
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