Funding for extra Boyle, Mercer bailiffs still unclear

December 30, 2004|ANN HARNEY

It's still not clear if Mercer and Boyle county sheriffs will be reimbursed for additional court bailiffs.

The necessity of more bailiffs in Boyle and Mercer circuit courts resulted from a court order by Judge Darren Peckler.

Peckler's order came after an alleged threat earlier this month in Boyle County on the life of Family Court Judge Bruce Petrie. Since then, Peckler, Petrie and District Judge Jeff Dotson have called for three bailiffs to be on duty in each of the three courts when they are in session.

Marie Bramblett, branch manager of the County Fee System, which is part of the state Finance Cabinet, said Wednesday that her office will reimburse sheriffs for all the time spent in the courtrooms by bailiffs and deputy sheriffs. She emphasized reimbursement, stating the money is not wages or salaries.

She says it is the state Administrative Office of the Courts that must decide how many bailiffs are authorized for state courtrooms.


Leigh Anne Hiatt, AOC public information officer, rejects that notion. In an e-mailed statement, Hiatt said, "Because the county is responsible for paying for its bailiffs, the county determines how many bailiffs to hire. The AOC will conduct a security assessment, however, if it is requested by the county."

Mercer County Sheriff Ralph Anderson said that already has been done by Vic Travis, AOC security administrator.

Bramblett's assurance of reimbursement of sheriffs for time that bailiffs and deputies spend in the courtroom is insufficient for Anderson to begin hiring additional bailiffs. He said he was authorized to hire two more bailiffs by Kentucky Chief Justice Joseph Lambert in January 2001.

"Before the chief justice authorizes it, I'm not assured the monies are going to be there," Anderson said today, and he is not going to hire additional bailiffs without that authorization. "It's a matter of clarification."

Because Mercer County is authorized for three bailiffs and Anderson has only six road deputies, when all three courts are in session at the same time, there will be no law enforcement in the county. It's either that, or there won't be the number of bailiffs the judges have requested.

Boyle County Judge-Executive Tony Wilder said that in order to hire more bailiffs, Boyle County Sheriff LeeRoy Hardin will get one cruiser cut from his budget this year. Wilder spoke with AOC officials today to find out their intentions concerning Peckler's order for more security in the courthouses.

The Boyle County Courthouse currently is undergoing a security assessment by AOC. "Apparently, the chief justice will not recommend additional bailiffs until we change the security status of the courthouse," Wilder said today.

"What that entails is we would have to go on security three status," he said. "I have been trying to avoid security three because of the lockdown of all doors to the courthouse except one."

The way Wilder sees it, if the county is unwilling to change to the highest security status required by the state, the state will not help pay for more bailiffs.

"It's our baby; it's our cost."

"Judges want written authorization that the security they want cannot be provided by me," he said. "That gives the judges the ability to go and say, 'The sheriff cannot do this. We want more.'" The judges will have to make their appeal to the chief justice.

The appeal may have to be broadened since Anderson says the three bailiffs working now in the Mercer County Courthouse are part time and are paid $8 an hour, but they only can work a maximum of 99 hours a month. If all three bailiffs are needed for each court, those already hired may have an increased workload.

Hardin has been authorized by Boyle County Fiscal Court to hire three more part-time bailiffs. He has four, but the seven bailiffs will still be two short when all three courts are in session in Boyle County.

That already has happened this year in Mercer County. Anderson said, "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.

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