State may pay for extra bailiffs

December 29, 2004|ANN R. HARNEY

HARRODSBURG - Mercer County Fiscal Court may not have to pay for additional bailiffs and security in the courthouse ordered recently by Mercer Circuit Judge Darren Peckler.

Peckler's order came in the wake of the alleged threat earlier this month in Boyle County on the life of Family Court Judge Bruce Petrie.

Mercer County Judge-Executive John Trisler told members of the court Tuesday morning that he has a "verbal commitment" for funding for increased security, and more security is needed than earlier thought.

Trisler spoke with Marie Bramblett, branch manager of the state County Fee System. She said today that her office will reimburse the sheriff at the $8 per hour rate for each hour he has a bailiff or deputy in court.


She emphasized that this is reimbursement and not wages or salary, and her office does not determine the number of bailiffs or deputies who can be used in the courts in each county. That is the job of the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Leigh Ann Hiatt in the AOC public information office was unable to reply to questions by press time.

"Three bailiffs per court is what the orders are from the three judges," Trisler said today. Each of the judges, Peckler, Petrie and Mercer District Judge Jeff Dotson, has ordered three bailiffs to be in court when it is in session.

As many as nine bailiffs could be needed

When all three courts are in session, that's nine bailiffs, and Mercer County only has three full-time bailiffs. Unless or until new bailiffs can be hired, the increased security will have to be supplied by the road deputies in the Mercer County sheriff's office, and that's a problem.

Mercer County Sheriff Ralph Anderson said today that he only has six road deputies, and if nine bailiffs are required, all of his deputies will have to serve in the courtrooms, taking them away from law enforcement duties.

Deputies Beverly Stratton and Timi Bell are sworn deputies but are needed in the office for bookkeeping purposes. Anderson said he was able to hire a sixth road deputy, "but we're behind the eight ball again."

Anderson said that while he has not received any official notice that additional bailiffs would be paid for by the state, Trisler told about him about the verbal commitment for funding. Boyle County Judge-Executive Tony Wilder also does not know of the state's intention to fund more bailiffs.

Boyle hiring three part-time bailiffs

Boyle County Fiscal Court voted two weeks ago to hire three part-time bailiffs to go with the four already employed. "We ended up eliminating the purchase of a cruiser this year to free up that money," Wilder said. When Boyle County needs nine bailiffs, Wilder said Boyle County Sheriff Leroy Hardin will use deputies.

"We're hoping (the Administrative Office of the Courts) will reimburse us, but we're not getting any commitments." He has not spoken with Trisler about the verbal commitment the Mercer judge has received. Trisler explained it this way:

"If the sheriff is required to add bailiffs, the office in Frankfort for financial matters dealing with sheriffs' expenses, with proper verification, will make a payment back to the sheriff for hours worked by the bailiffs up to $8 an hour."

Anderson said if that is the case, all the verification needed will be the judges' signatures on forms stating the number of bailiffs who were on duty during court sessions, but he'll have to receive official assurances.

"I have to be confident that the money is going to be there to pay (new bailiffs') salaries," he said. He said all three courts were in session during the week before Christmas, and it was difficult to man all three of them.

"Basically, we were running from court to court." When all three courts are in session at the same time, family court meets in the old jail on Chiles street while circuit and district courts occupy the two courtrooms in the courthouse.

"There's no way I can do it," Anderson said. "I'm going to be in contempt of court the next time all three courts are in session."

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