Bevin calls judge’s resignation ‘suspicious’; Walsons say other candidates had notice

Published 1:35 pm Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Retired family court judge Jeff Walson said there was no political intent when he retired quickly in August.

Walson, who retired Aug. 5 after more than two decades as a judge in Clark and Madison counties, said he made the decision quickly because the filing deadline was Aug. 9. Jeff Walson said he had family health issues to attend to and he wanted to make sure the vacancy was on the ballot.

In a statement issued Monday night, Gov. Matt Bevin likened Walson’s action to “inside dealing and corruption,” as Walson’s wife Kimberly Blair Walson is a candidate for the seat.

“Constituents of the 25th Judicial Circuit of Madison and Clark counties should make up their own minds with respect to the ethical dilemma presented by the timing of Judge Walson’s resignation and his wife’s subsequent filing for the vacant office,” Bevin said in a statement. “Do you think it is appropriate that the judge will start drawing his pension and his wife will slip in to collect his salary for the exact same position? Personally, I find it highly offensive.”

Walson said he didn’t resign to clear the way for his wife to take the bench.

“I think it’s unfortunate a governor injects himself in a local, non-partican race,” Jeff Walson said this morning. “I didn’t decide weeks and months before. I did it to make sure it would be on the ballot.”

Walson said he dated his resignation at 11:59 p.m. Aug. 7, or Sunday. The Kentucky Constitution says if notice is given of a vacancy less than two days before the filing deadline, the vacancy will be filled by a gubernatorial appointee, he said.

Bevin said Jeff Walson’s surprise retirement, which included a line in his letter not to release the news, was “shady.”

However, the extraordinary timing of Judge Walson’s resignation, allowed his wife to strategically file for the vacated office when no one else knew it was open, thus preventing the customary process from taking place,” Bevin said. “Without benefit of immediate notice, other prospective candidates were, in effect, prevented from running.”

Kimberly Walson said the vacancy was posted on the Kentucky Secretary of State’s website Monday morning. Filing as a candidate, she said, involves printing a form, signing it before two witnesses and a notary, and delivering it to Frankfort.

She said the vacancy was posted on the Secretary of State’s office with plenty of time for other candidates to file.

“It was, all day Monday and all day Tuesday, on the internet,” she said. “Someone did file. There is a race.”

Jeff Walson said he included a sentence in his resignation letter asking the governor not to release the news immediately so he could notify local media about his retirement first.

Kim Walson said she believed the governor’s statement, released the night before an election, was absolutely motivated by politics.

“If (Jeff Walson) waited two more days, it would have been a gubernatorial appointment,” she said.

“I originally thought I’d try and hang on to the end of the year,” Jeff Walson said. After reviewing the constitution, he said he changed his mind.

“If I could get it on the ballot, people could choose,” he said.

Contact Fred at fred.petke@winchestersun.com.

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email fred.petke@bluegrassnewsmedia.com or call 859-759-0051.

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