Judge to rule on county attorney joining officer, magistrate case

Published 10:24 am Friday, April 19, 2019

Whether the county attorney will be allowed to join a court case between a city police officer and the city itself is now in the hands of the judge.

Thursday in Clark Circuit Court, Judge Brandy Oliver Brown heard arguments whether or not Clark County Attorney William Elkins should be allowed to enter a pending case between Travis Thompson, a Winchester Police officer and Clark County magistrate, and the City of Winchester. Elkins maintains that Thompson’s magisterial oath supersedes the one he took to become a police officer, and that being a police officer and magistrate amounts to holding a municipal and county office at the same time, which is not allowed under state law.

After more than 30 minutes of arguments from the attorneys in the case, Brown said she would rule on Elkins’ motion to intervene first, and as soon as she could. Other motions which hinge on that decision would be heard later.

Email newsletter signup

“Where I’m at is this,” she said. “The statute is thin on evidence I can allow the county attorney to intervene. I’m going to take this part under advisement. If I don’t let you intervene, I don’t need to decide on the other (motions). I will endeavor to get something out as soon as possible.”

Thompson filed in March for a judge to decide whether or not he can serve as a city police officer and as an elected county magistrate at the same time. Thompson’s attorney Brian Thomas included letters from the Kentucky Attorney General and the Kentucky League of Cities saying the two positions are not incompatible and that a city police officer is an employee.

Elkins believes otherwise, that Thompson’s officer oath was negated when took his oath to be a magistrate, and that his subsequent arrests are illegal. Elkins has dismissed a number of cases where Thompson was the arresting officer.

“Clearly this matter is not just between (Thompson) and the city,” said Rob Johnson, an attorney representing Elkins in the case. In court filings, Johnson said the situation affects Elkins’ ability to act as prosecutor in district court as well as representing the county itself.

“Is the county attempting to prohibit his acting as magistrate?” Brown asked.

“(Elkins’) concern is holding two public offices,” Johnson said.

Brown said she saw no business of the county telling the city who has the authority to be a police officer.

“Is the court concerned about the effect on the fiscal court? Are all those decisions going to be made with a cloud over them?” Johnson asked.

Thomas and Winchester City Attorney Bill Dykeman both argued against allowing Elkins to join the suit.

“It has to do with if you can hold a magisterial position and a city police officer,” Thomas said. “We believe the interest of the county attorney is represented because the issue is narrow.”

Dykeman said ruling against Thompson would also affect the voters’ wishes.

“He is not an officer of the city,” Dykeman said. “When this man ran for magistrate, everyone knew he was a (police) officer. We would be obviating the will of the voters.”

Whether or not Elkins is allowed to join the case could also affect potential appeals, he said.

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.

email author More by Fred