Heat rises as appointment fails

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EDA appointment causes sparks to fly among fiscal court members

By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE – The Bullitt County Economic Development Authority has a new member.

But it didn’t come without some heated conversation between Bullitt County Judge/Executive Melanie Roberts and members of Bullitt Fiscal Court.

Jerry Summers, who oversees community and government relations with Beam Global in Clermont, will replace Dale Russ on the county’s EDA board.

That recommendation by Roberts received unanimous approval.

However, it was the first recommendation that drew the ire of court members.

For at least the second time, Roberts placed Debby Carter’s name into the ring for the EDA position.

And, as happened in the past, the nomination was not approved.

Roberts said the question in the past dealt with Carter’s involvement in a lawsuit between the city of Hillview and Truck America.

She said Carter “won” the lawsuit and she represented some needed, fresh blood on the board.

Roberts said the county deserves to grow and expand and have new ideas and new servants, such as Carter.

The Bullitt County Ethics Commission was asked about any possible conflict at the time of the lawsuit. The board said there was none.

In talking with fiscal court, Carter said she has been a resident of the county for over 30 years and serves as a member of the state proprietary board and the KIPDA board.

“I believe Bullitt County has huge growth potential,” said Carter.

The county judge even read a letter of recommendation from Andrew Beshear, Carter’s attorney in the lawsuit and son of the governor.

Roberts said she has tried to find appointees who provide a new look. Plus, she said it helps that Carter has a good relationship with the governor.

Scott Wantland, who also served as Carter’s attorney and is a current member of the EDA board, said that he knew the litigation was a concern previously. But the jury decided that Hillview was wrong and the matter is resolved.

With Roberts and magistrate Ruthie Ashbaugh in support of the appointment, magistrates Bob Hunt, Joe Laswell and John Bradshaw were opposed and defeated the motion.

With that, Roberts asked each dissenting magistrate the reason for their vote.

Hunt, who was not on the court when the previous votes were taken, said that he was concerned that Carter was too busy running her own business and serving on two boards to serve.

“It takes time,” said Hunt.

He added that there had been no conversation with the other magistrates about the appointment. He still felt that time was an issue.

Laswell initially gave a “no comment.” 

However, pressed further for an explanation, the friction escalated.

Roberts asked what Laswell was looking for to serve on the EDA.

Laswell said that the county judge must make the recommendations, not fiscal court. However, he said various names of individuals who reside in his district have been submitted for various boards and the judge has not placed them up for consideration.

With a challenge from Roberts, Laswell said he would have names for the April 2 meeting.

Carter asked what made those individuals more qualified than herself.

Laswell responded that he would like to have some people from his district serving on various boards.

“We’ll let this court decide if they are qualified,” Laswell said in response to Carter’s question.

The magistrate added that he has tried to work with Roberts for the past six years but it is hard to get people to serve when she will not bring them up.

Adding more fuel to the fire, Roberts said that it sounds like Laswell says one thing but never follows up on it.

“I hear you talking,” Laswell responded.

“I think the people deserve better,” said Roberts.

Bob Combest, who served on the ethics board when the matter arose, wondered why have the committee when fiscal court doesn’t listen to its recommendations.

However, county attorney Monica Robinson said the ethics board can’t and doesn’t have the right to make recommendations to fiscal court.

And she said that the lawsuit, in which Truck America was awarded a judgment of over $11 million, is not technically over. The matter has been appealed by the city of Hillview.

Bradshaw said that since the lawsuit is not over, he still has his original concern over Carter’s appointment.

But Roberts said that just because there is an appeal, does that mean everything stops. She pointed to the appeal of the smoking lawsuit.

Robinson reminded the judge that it was the county and its eight cities who are appealing the Court of Appeals decision, which stated that the health department was proper in creating a smoking ban in public and some non-public places.

Sandy Higgins, who was appointed to the emergency services committee, called Laswell and Bradshaw obstructionists.

Her husband and Fox Chase councilman Mike Higgins felt that maybe a person like former state Rep. Linda Belcher could be a nominee all parties could agree upon.

The discussion continued as Roberts requested Happy Cahoe, a longtime EDA member, what qualities he felt were important for the new member.

Cahoe said having people who are qualified, have no conflicts and can keep things confidential are all important.

He even suggested revamping the makeup to allow the cities to have a person on the board.

Even after the vote to place Summers on the board, Roberts told Laswell to have his list ready for the April 2 meeting.

There is one other EDA member whose term may soon be expiring.