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Questions surround candidate’s letter to students

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By William Carroll

 

A recent letter has some citizens concerned while the candidate who sent it believes it is much ado about nothing.
Prior to graduation, magistrate and current candidate for the position of County Judge Executive Ronald “Woodie” Cheek sent a letter to Spencer County High School graduates for the class of 2014. The letter congratulates graduates and goes on to discuss the future that awaits newly minted graduates. Cheek finishes the letter by offering his assistance to new grads and encouraging them to call him.
The letter was signed by Cheek himself and was sent in a Spencer County Fiscal Court envelope on Spencer County Fiscal Court letterhead. At the bottom of the letter is a note that it was “paid for personally by Woodie Cheek.”
The Spencer Magnet first became aware of the letter when several citizens voiced their concern as to the letter’s contents and its timing. The letter provided to The Magnet is postmarked May 9, less than two weeks before the election.
Cheek said he sees absolutely nothing wrong with the letter and that each year he sends letters to the graduates to encourage them for the future.
“As a former educator I know the importance of our students and graduation,” Cheek said. “This is just who I am and I am proud of it.”
Cheek said he has not only sent out letters to students but has also sent out letters to parents on his own letterhead. Cheek provided The Magnet with a copy of his personal stationary which has a picture of a male and female student working on classwork surrounding a schoolhouse with Cheek’s name prominently displayed underneath. Cheek said he sent some 2000 of these letters at a cost of $2,000 of his own money to local parents.
Both Cheek’s own personalized letter to parents and the graduation letter discuss the virtues of students and neither of them includes any campaign slogans or requests regarding Cheek’s candidacy.
Cheek said he has been sending letters of this type for the last 15 years or so and did so for quite a period of time before becoming a magistrate.
Cheek also provided The Magnet copies of letters he sent to constituents of his district during the last four years regarding issues of importance in the county. The letters were also sent on Spencer County Fiscal Court letterhead.
When asked about the graduation letter, Spencer County Judge Executive Bill Karrer said that he was not aware that the letter had been sent by Cheek and that the Fiscal Court did not specifically approve any letters be sent out.
Karrer said sending the letter is not “what I would do,” but said that each magistrate had been provided fiscal court letterhead stationary at the beginning of the current magistrate’s term four years ago and that magistrates were allowed to use the letterhead at their discretion.
Magistrate Mike Moody agreed with Karrer’s statement and said that he (Moody) had the idea for specific fiscal court stationary.
“The idea was that if one of your constituents had a question, you could use the letters to officially respond,” Moody said.
Moody added that while he has had the stationary since the beginning he couldn’t recall ever actually having to use it.
Magistrate Jerry Davis said he had personally never used the stationary.
“I don’t even honestly understand why we have it,” Davis said. “I have never understood the need for it and I have never even picked mine up from the judge’s office. It is still sitting over there.”
According to Spencer County Deputy Judge Executive Karen Curtsinger, while each magistrate was provided their own county letterhead, she is only aware of Cheek using his.
“I know Woodie uses his,” she said. “He also has his own Spencer County stationary that just has his name at the top without listing the judge and other magistrates.”
A review of Kentucky State election laws show no direct violation of any kind regarding the letters and Cheek said he believes that the objections are politically motivated.
“I love these little games these little people play,” Cheek said in a written statement regarding the issue.