Elkins, Thomas talk use of excess fees, deterring crime

In the hotly contested race for Clark County attorney, candidates Brian Thomas, the Democratic incumbent, and his opponent, local attorney and Republican William Elkins, fielded questions about how to generate more revenue for the county, how the county attorney’s office can help tackle community issues and why they are the better person for the job at the Clark County Candidates Forum Tuesday night.

In regards to how to generate more revenue for the county, Thomas said his office has already implemented numerous programs that have helped increase revenue and made the county attorney’s office self-sustained.

“When I took office, the county attorney’s office generated cold check money and that was it,” he said. “In the previous eight years before I took office, only $8,000 was collected. In the 12 years I’ve been there, we’ve collected $3.8 million — a $200,000 per year increase.”

Thomas noted programs like the restitution program that requires those convicted of damaging property to pay for the damages and the fees for his office’s work in the case, and traffic and insurance diversion programs.

Elkins said generating revenue through the county attorney’s office is “a creature of statute.”

“The Kentucky legislature has put in place a number of vehicles for the county attorney’s office to generate funds,” he said. “That’s through the cold check program, through the county attorney traffic program, for taking and prosecuting claims and foreclosure actions, and collecting taxes. Beyond that, there are probably not any new opportunities. What we could do is a more determined job at making those collections and making sure we are turning them over to the fiscal court by June 30.”

Both candidates agreed one of the biggest problems facing the community is the drug epidemic and crimes related to it.

Elkins said he would solve that problem by sending a message that the county is not soft on crime.

“…The biggest problem facing Clark County is that we need to make Clark County safe again,” he said. “We can do that by defeating the drug epidemic, by chasing criminals out of town and protecting our teachers and schools. We’ve been too soft on crime. There needs to be a region-wide message of jail time for crime.”

Thomas said he has taken a proactive approach to tackling drug-related crimes, noting programs like drug court, Casey’s Law, mental health court and veterans treatment court.

Concerning excess fees, the candidates acknowledged that statute only dictates how fees collected from cold checks must be used. Those must be turned over to the Clark County Fiscal Court by June 30 of each year.

Other excess fees should be used only for reasonable expenses in the county attorney’s office, Elkins said.

“Under my program, we’ll just simply turn that over June 30 and make no choices about what it is used for,” he said. “If it’s not being use for office expenses, we’ll turn it over to the court.”

Thomas said his office tries to be fiscally responsible with excess fees.

“Because we are fiscally responsible, and because in the past, the county has not always been quite fiscally responsible, we have actually held on to a number of fees and been able to use that to help the animal shelter, to help fund projects. We were able to put a roof on a fire department so the station wasn’t going down. We continue to operate and use those funds as they’re permitted … and how they’re required by law and we’ll continue to do so.”

Thomas said he is the best candidate for the office because of his experience and commitment.

“I’m accessible,” he said. “If you don’t believe me, ask the law enforcement in your community that are able to call me all hours of the night to be able to do search warrants. I have created innovative programs and services that have been able to generate revenue for our office… We continue to be innovative. I have the experience. I have the proven record of success.”

Elkins said he is best for the job because he has a simple plan of action that he is willing and capable of enacting.

“The bottom line is to improve Clark County, we absolutely have to defeat the drug epidemic. You’ve heard me say that before,” he said. “We have to chase criminals out of town. That’s nothing new. The message is the same. We have to protect our teachers and schools and the way we’re going to do that is simple. We’re going to keep repeat drug offenders in jail. We’re going to send a region-wide message of jail time for crime. And we’re going to establish crime-free zones around our schools.”