Wet-dry lawsuit will define 'year'

January 06, 2004|ANN R. HARNEY

HARRODSBURG - The crux of a lawsuit filed to stop the sale of liquor licenses here has been narrowed to one question: Is a year a calendar year, or 365 days?

"When all is said and done, that's the Readers Digest condensed version of the case," Mercer Circuit Judge Darren Peckler said Monday afternoon. Both sides agree with the facts of the case, including when the elections were held.

The lawsuit filed in early December contests the legality of the election in which voters approved liquor by the drink in qualified restaurants. Those supporting liquor by the drink won the election by a 17-vote margin.

The legality of the election is based on the plaintiff's claim that the election was held three days short of three years, a requirement of the law establishing the sale of alcohol in restaurants qualifying for a liquor license.


The last election was held on Nov. 7, 2000. The election at issue is last year's General Election, which was held on Nov. 4. General Elections are set by law to be on the second Tuesday in November.

The first order of business in a motion hearing Monday was whether to allow Charles and Helen Dedman to join the lawsuit as defendants/contestees. There was no written reply to the Dedmans' motion from plaintiffs Carl Toth, William Toth, Mark Gray, August Properties, Mark Edwards and Lees Inc.

Nevertheless, Douglas McSwain, attorney for the plaintiffs, added, "We have no opposition as to them as contestees or as defendants, if they are qualified voters."

Brad Guthrie of Harrodsburg, who represents the Dedmans along with Jamie M. Ramsey of Cincinnati, practically jumped to his feet. "I find it interesting since two of his clients are not qualified voters." Gray and Edwards do not live in the city and could not vote on the question, but both own property there and McSwain said the plaintiffs had not declared themselves to be qualified voters.

The judge allowed the Dedmans to join the lawsuit. They operate Beaumont Inn and have been involved in each of the attempts to get liquor by the drink passed in both the city and Mercer County. They join other defendants, including members of the Board of Elections, current County Clerk Ronnie Compton, interim County Clerk Bruce Harper, Mercer County Judge-Executive John Trisler, Mercer County Sheriff Ralph Anderson and the city.

The second motion came from the plaintiffs, who want more time to reply to the defendants' answer. The Dedmans, through Guthrie, filed a motion requesting the plaintiffs be required to file their proofs on Jan. 8. Coincidentally, that is the date, or a day before the date, that Harrodsburg officials believe the city would become moist. Either Jan. 8 or Jan. 9 is the 60th day since the election was certified and the order from Trisler was filed.

The request from the plaintiffs' attorney for more time to prepare the case was granted. Since all parties agree on the facts of the case, all that was left was for both sides to file briefs. "We don't feel like there is any question about the facts of the case," said Brent Caldwell, an attorney representing the county officials named in the suit.

"The facts of the case are not in question," Peckler concluded. He granted the plaintiffs two more weeks to submit their briefs, and set the deadline for Jan. 20. The defendants' attorneys will have two more weeks to reply and the plaintiffs will have six days for their final rebuttal. A hearing on the arguments was set for Feb. 12.

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