GLASGOW – Barren County Fiscal Court agreed to approve job descriptions for two new positions, though they are likely to be occupied by the same person.
The decision was made after the court members returned from an hourlong closed session, the stated reasons for which were “deliberations on [future] property acquisition or sale of real property by a public agency …, discussions of proposed litigation against or on behalf of a public agency …, discussions which might lead to the appointment, discipline, or dismissal of an employee.”
When Judge-Executive Micheal Hale asked whether there was any action from the closed session, District 5 Magistrate Mark Bowman made a motion “to adopt ordinance No. 631 and 632.” District 7 Magistrate Billy Houchens provided the second. A unanimous vote followed immediately.
Hale then said, “I'm going to declare an emergency for immediate personnel need and adopt on second reading. I will entertain a motion.”
This time District 1 Magistrate Jeff Botts provided the motion, and Houchens again provided the second. Another unanimous vote immediately followed.
Hale invited “any other action from closed session” and got none, and the second portion of open meeting adjourned after less than 2 minutes.
Afterward, the Glasgow Daily Times was immediately provided with copies of the two ordinances in question. No. 631 added a job description for “code enforcement associate” to the county's administrative code. No. 632 added a job description for “public information officer.”
John Stephens, a registered nurse who resigned last month to take a job back in the health care field, had been the county's solid waste coordinator and code enforcement officer and he also served as a paid part-time deputy emergency management director.
Hale said that for now, he intends to cover the duties of solid waste coordinator and code enforcement officer “until I get a good feel on what we need.”
The code enforcement associate would take the initial complaint calls and research background information, and then he would be the one to go to the scene to actually respond to the call.
He said this is in preparation for the potential adoption of the International Property Maintenance Code, on which he anticipates a vote relatively soon but he wasn't sure exactly when.
“You know, how many calls do we have a week,” Hale said. “When we pass the International Property Maintenance Code, that's going to go way up. We may need to look at hiring [someone]. I hate to bring someone in and not have the work for them to do.”
He said this person would also help emergency management as well, so part of the emergency management grant will help pay this position.
Essentially, Hale is looking to appoint someone to a position that would be a combination of part-time duties. In addition to taking the code enforcement calls, this person would also keep grant documentation and applications up to date for solid waste projects and emergency management and this person would also serve as the public information officer for the county, including the sheriff's office.
He said when asked that he “probably” has somebody in mind for it, but he does not plan to advertise the position.
“I'm just going to appoint,” Hale said.
The salary was not part of the job description ordinances, so when he was asked about that, he said, “we haven't talked about that yet.” He said he wanted to get this part done first.
The full language of the three exceptions to the Kentucky Open Meetings Act that were cited is as follows for Kentucky Revised Statute 61.810(1)(b), (c) and (f): “(b) Deliberations on the future acquisition or sale of real property by a public agency, but only when publicity would be likely to affect the value of a specific piece of property to be acquired for public use or sold by a public agency; (c) Discussions of proposed or pending litigation against or on behalf of the public agency; [and] (f) Discussions or hearings which might lead to the appointment, discipline, or dismissal of an individual employee, member, or student without restricting that employee's, member's, or student's right to a public hearing if requested. This exception shall not be interpreted to permit discussion of general personnel matters in secret.”
A March 21, 2000, decision by the Kentucky Office of the Attorney, 00-OMD-86 stemmed from a similar situation in Meade County.
In that instance KRS 61.810(1)(f) was cited as a reason for going into closed session, and the editor of a newspaper said in her complaint, according to the OAG decision, “that after the fiscal court returned to open session, 'a motion was made to approve a new job description, that of code enforcement officer.' It was her position that '[a] new job description . . . would be a general personnel matter' which could not properly be discussed in a closed session.”
The OAG concluded “that if, in fact, the fiscal court relied on KRS 61.810(1)(f) in discussing a new job description in a closed session, its reliance on that exception was misplaced.”
That decision also cited a previous one, 94-OMD-103.
“In that decision, we held that a closed session discussion relating to the creation of additional positions that might lead to the employment of an employee was improper. To hold otherwise would have resulted in an expansion of the scope of the exception to include discussions of advertising for the position, salary established for the position, and job duties associated with the position (general personnel matters in which the public has a recognized interest), rather than the qualifications of an individual applicant for the position, the pros and cons of hiring that particular applicant, and that particular applicant’s current job situation (matters capable of resulting in reputational damage to an individual if publicly discussed) …,” the 2000 decision states.