Judge to hear Charter case tomorrow

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By Robin Bass

Lawyers are set to appear in Spencer County Circuit Court tomorrow afternoon to lay out their latest arguments in the charter government case. At the center of this most recent legal dispute between the City of Taylorsville and Spencer County Fiscal Court is a request for a judge to reconvene the charter commission.

“This is somewhat unconventional to be asking a court to do this,” said Attorney Sam Carl, who represents the City of Taylorsville. “It’s not exactly democratic either.”

Twice charter commission members have voted to stop meeting, said Carl, once in February and again last June. During those votes, the majority of members agreed that Kentucky’s statute explaining the formation of charter – or merged – governments needed some clarifications. Rather than continue with meetings that could be later deemed a waste of time, members voted to stop the process until they received a ruling from “the highest court.”

Attorney Carol Pettit, who represents fiscal court, said that despite questions about the statute, the fact remains that state law requires the charter commission to meet. She said by acting contrary to the statute, “this body has decided that the state legislature is wrong.”

The charter commission has been mandated to develop a comprehensive plan, said Pettit. There must be provisions for the new government’s form, structure, functions and powers. There must also be descriptions of officers, their duties and procedures spelled out for making amendments in the future.

By law, the plan for a merged government must be submitted to the county clerk by August 2010 to be on the ballot that November. Because of the shrinking time frame in which to come up with a course of action, Pettit hopes that the court will rule in favor of her motion for injunctive relief.

Carl said that the circumstances in this case do not warrant injunctive relief as outlined in Pettit’s motion since there is no evidence that anyone’s rights have been violated. He also said that the counselor for fiscal court has not provided any proof that any immediate or irreparable harm exists.

“Our point is that this situation does not present a reason for a court to enter an injunction,” said Carl.

In court documents, Carl also pointed out that Judge Tom McDonald denied Pettit’s request for a summary judgment in October. Carl said that this showed the court recognized that many questions remain regarding the “validity of the charter government petition.” Carl stated in his response that questionable circumstances of the petition include:

• that it was prepared and circulated by a private corporation,

• there was no overwhelming public desire for a merged government, and

• affidavits have been filed showing that some signatures on the petition were forged or obtained through criminal means.

Previous reports by the Spencer Magnet have stated that the petition was created by the Charter Government Task Force. The petition was signed by over 1,800 local residents and was filed with the Spencer County Clerk’s office a year ago November 2. In the petition, residents requested city and county leaders to form a Charter Government committee and create one government entity that could be voted on by the 2010 general election.

Judge Charles Hickman is scheduled to preside over this case tomorrow at 1 p.m. in Spencer County Circuit Court.