Magistrates’ case against Branham dismissed
Published 12:14 am Sunday, November 6, 2016
A judge dismissed a civil case between four Clark County magistrates and Judge-Executive Henry Branham Thursday, saying there was nothing to rule upon.
The four magistrates, Robert Blanton, Joe Graham, Pam Blackburn and Daniel Konstantopoulos, filed a petition for a declaratory judgment in April, several months after a long-running debate over employee raises.
In her ruling, Clark Circuit Judge Jean Chenault Logue wrote there was not an actual issue to be resolved, which is required for a declaratory judgment. Ruling in the matter would be an advisory opinion, which the circuit court is not allowed to offer, she said.
The dismissal, she said, was purely on jurisdictional grounds and did not reflect on the merits of the case.
The ruling comes more than four months after attorneys for both sides argued the case before Logue in Clark Circuit Court.
“We were pleased with the ruling,” Clark County Attorney Brian Thomas said. “We filed a motion to dismiss (the petition) and that was one of our arguments.”
Scott Crosbie, the attorney representing the four magistrates, could not be reached Friday afternoon at his office.
The central issue in the legal filings centers on the authority to implement pay increases for county employees. While working on the fiscal year 2016 county budget, department heads within Clark County government submitted budgets with employee raises of 3 to 5 percent. In subsequent Clark County Fiscal Court meetings, a majority of the Court voted not to implement the budgeted raises and voted for a 1.7 percent raise for all employees.
Branham said the budgeted raises were not removed from the county budget and believed he was required to administer the budget, which was approved by a majority of the fiscal court. After seeking advice from state officials, he implemented both the budgeted raises and the 1.7 percent raise for county employees.
The four magistrates believed Branham acted arbitrarily in implementing the raises and over stepped his authority without a vote from the Court.
The magistrates did not ask for financial damages or that the raises be rescinded, which Logue noted in her ruling.
“Aside from the current lawsuit, … it does not appear from the record that the Fiscal Court officially addressed the issue or attempted to remedy the situation at any point following (Branham’s) conduct,” she wrote. “There is no indication in the record that any attempts were made to handle the issue internally before the Fiscal Court as a governing body.”
The magistrates were concerned Branham would use a similar strategy in the future.
“Whether (Branham) would engage in this very same conduct again in the future requires some speculation,” Logue wrote. “Nevertheless, the Court believes that sufficient remedies exist of which the Fiscal Court, by and through its Magistrates/members, could avail itself at the time of that conduct, even if it were to reoccur.”
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