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Charter members will be named to suit

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By Robin Bass

All 32 members of the Charter Commission will be added as parties to a lawsuit between the City of Taylorsville and Spencer County Fiscal Court.

Circuit Judge Charles Hickman told lawyers during a hearing Thursday that commission members needed to have a voice in any decisions that may effect whether they are forced to resume meetings. Attorney Carol Pettit was instructed to subpoena members of the commission in time for another hearing mid-February.

Pettit was originally attending the hearing last week to discuss reasons why Hickman should rule in favor of requiring the commission to reconvene. As counsel for fiscal court, she argued that Kentucky law was being violated as commissioners refused to move toward getting a comprehensive charter government plan ready for voters by November 2010.

“The actions of a few are requiring many on the commission to not be in compliance with the statute,” said Pettit.

Attorney Sam Carl, who represents the city, said that besides the fact that the Charter Commission twice voted to stop meeting until a judge could rule on several facets of the law – the petition drafted by the Charter Government Task Force was “flawed”.

“The statute requires alternatives to a merger,” said Carl, “this petition eliminated the option of consolidating services. They are neglecting half of the statute.”

Instead of ruling on Pettit’s motion for injunctive relief, Hickman elected to postpone further discussion until the third party could be added to the case. At the next hearing, Hickman said that the first issue to be addressed by the court would be the city’s request for a declaration of rights. In particular, Hickman wanted to determine the validity of the petition.

“It seems we are operating under the belief that the petition is invalid,” said Pettit, “and there is no evidence to prove that.

Evidence submitted in court documents includes statements by one individual who signed the petition but did not know exactly what the document said. Another person stated that free t-shirts were being exchanged for signatures. Hickman said that he planned to look into these and other issues surrounding the petition, such as voter eligibility.

“I would like to see us proceed toward a resolution,” said Hickman, adding that if the petition was determined to be invalid, then all other motions would be inconsequential.

Taylorsville Mayor Don Pay said that he was pleased to see the court moving closer to answering the city’s request for a declaration of rights. In this legal request, the city is asking for the “highest court” to rule on their rights as a governmental agency in the midst of what some believe is a hostile takeover by county government.

The petition created by the Charter Government Task Force was signed by over 1,800 local residents, and formally filed with Spencer County Clerk’s office November 2, 2007. The petition requested city and county leaders to form a Charter Government committee and create a comprehensive plan for one government entity in Spencer County. The petition requested the plan to be completed in time so that it could be voted on by the 2010 general election.

Since the Charter Commission was formed December 2007, later meetings were spent primarily disputing the merits of a charter government. The city announced mid-February their intent to file for a declaration of rights and since the legal action, Charter talks have been stalled. Current members of the Charter Commission are:

City-appointees

Nathan Nation

Ruth Ann Sweazy

Syd Kirsch

Mike Driscoll

Dudley Dale

David Young

Phyllis Williams

Davis Lee Downs

Lynda Huckleberry

Mark Armstrong

George Day

Dyke Platt

Kathy Spears

Don Pay

Jonathan O’Dell

County-appointees

Joe Paul Smith

Glen Goebel

Steve Coulter

John Watland

Anthony Travis

Tim Herndon

Jim Travis

Steve Bowman

Trevor Brown

Lisa Miller

Shirley Thomas

Bret Beaverson

Dr. Charles Burton

Gordon Depen

James Allen Tipton

Ruth Hollan

Lauren Collins

David Jenkins