Jailer sues fiscal court, county officials to return HIP back to detention center

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By Thomas Barr

SHEPHERDSVILLE -- Bullitt Fiscal Court recently moved the home incarceration program out of the detention center control and to the sheriff's office.

That action has brought about a lawsuit.

Attorney Eric Farris, on behalf of jailer Martha Knox, has filed a lawsuit against Bullitt Fiscal Court, county attorney Monica Robinson and sheriff David Greenwell.

Included in the lawsuit was a motion for a temporary injunction seeking to have the HIP operation returned to the detention center immediately.

A hearing on that motion will be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday in Bullitt Circuit Court.

The lawsuit, which gives only one side of the argument, Knox alleges that on Aug. 6, 2013, Bullitt Fiscal Court passed a resolution which moved HIP from the jailer's operation and placed in under the sheriff's control.

The lawsuit argues that fiscal court was acting outside its authority and that Robinson failed in her duties by not opposing the action.

The suit claims that in addition to moving the operation to the sheriff's office, fees for participation in the program were increased with both the county attorney and the sheriff receiving a portion of the fees.

Under the fee schedule approved by Bullitt Fiscal Court, the original one-time hookup fee would be $50. Of that, the sheriff's office would receive $25 and the county attorney's office would get $20. Fiscal court would get the remaining $5.

If the person is out-of-county and assigned by a court to serve HIP in Bullitt County, the hookup fee would be $75 with the sheriff receiving $40, the county attorney $25 and the county $10.

In addition, a person on HIP would pay a daily monitoring fee of $28. That includes a $10 fee to the sheriff's office, $5 to the county attorney and $5 to fiscal court. The remaining $8 per day would go to Corrisoft, the vendor who supplies the HIP equipment.

If a person is declared indigent or has severe medical issues as defined by the county's policy, the daily fee would be dropped to $20. The sheriff would receive $8, as would Corrisoft. The county attorney's office would get the remaining $4 and the county fiscal court would not receive any funds.

The motion for a temporary injunction is to have the program returned immediately to the Bullitt County Jailer.

Farris argued in the lawsuit that the program violates the Constitutional doctrine of separation of powers.

He said that the county attorney is the prosecutor who is in charge of recommending sentencing and the sheriff is in charge of enforcing the law. Now, both are part of the fee collection system. And both are now moving into the area of corrections.

"A substantial conflict of interest is created when the county attorney is able to decide who is eligible for HIP and who qualifies as indigent, all the while collecting fees from HIP," Farris claimed in the lawsuit.

Ultimately, Farris is seeking to have the program returned permanently to the jailer, who has that responsibility under law.

In an interview, Farris said the lawsuit has nothing to do with the recent issue over the sentencing and release of a defendant in circuit court.

The attorney said his client had tried to work out issues with the program but that didn't happen. In fact, Bullitt Fiscal Court would later state that the county attorney should not meet with Farris on the matter.

At the time of the changeover, fiscal court heard a report on several incidents of non-compliance and how those in the program were not being properly monitored. In fact, it was stated that someone who was on HIP on a rape charge was not being monitored properly.

Since the change was made, fiscal court recently heard that there had been no violations.

Farris said he understood there were concerns; however, no one would sit down and talk.

"It was a new system and a new provider," said Farris. "If there were problems, I don't know why someone didn't say anything. The sheriff and the county attorney were able to monitor the system during that entire time and never said anything."

The defendants will be provided legal counsel through the Kentucky Association of Counties through its normal insurance coverage.