Deputy judge-executive appointee says she should be paid; Declares Fiscal Court erred by not setting a salary

Published 3:37 pm Monday, November 15, 2021

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By Miles Layton

Clark County Deputy Judge-Executive appointee Frankie Faulkner said the county’s Fiscal Court erred when it chose not to set a salary for this job.

During the meeting Nov. 10, magistrates agreed with Judge-Executive Henry Branham that as judge-executive, state statute grants him the power to appoint who he wants to the job.

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However, magistrates chose by a 4-2 vote not to set a salary for Branham’s appointee because Faulkner had been terminated by the court in March 2020 by a vote of 5-1. Because it was a personnel matter, magistrates did not discuss in open session, then or now, the reason for Faulkner’s dismissal when she was serving as county finance officer.

Since the court has not set a salary, the question becomes whether — if — Faulkner will work without pay until the matter is resolved.

“To address your question of will I work without pay, I already have (worked without pay),” she said. “Because the fiscal court refused to set a reasonable salary for this position, the treasurer has no authority to pay me for the seven days I have already worked. I believe that might also be a violation of labor law. As to continue working without pay, no I will not. Now that the judge-executive knows there is no salary set for this position, he would not allow me to continue to work since that would knowingly make the county liable for possible labor law violations.”

Branham confirmed what Faulkner said and added, “I see no reason why four magistrates should be able to force Clark County Government to be in non-compliance with the law.”

Faulkner gave two reasons she feels the court was incorrect when it chose not to set a salary for deputy judge-executive.

First, Faulkner cited state law when she said the judge-executive may appoint a deputy judge-executive and a reasonable number of other assistants, secretaries and clerical workers as determined by the fiscal court and that the court shall fix reasonable compensation for the deputy judge executive and other employees.

Second, Faulker claims she was an at-will status employee and there was no reason given when she was dismissed by Judge-Executive Chris Pace in March 2020.

“The court said (last week) I shouldn’t be hired because I was previously terminated by this court,” she said. “According to my dismissal letter I was dismissed ‘as an at-will status employee’ and as ‘serving at the pleasure of the judge-executive’ — no other reason was ever given to me,” she said. “I’m not sure how that would make me ineligible to be rehired by the county.”

Faulkner sent an email March 31, 2020 to Judge-Executive Chris Pace that said, “I read in the Winchester Sun that I had been dismissed by the Clark County Fiscal Court at a special called meeting on March 17, 2O2O. Magistrate Greg Elkins made a motion ‘to dismiss county Finance Officer Frankie Faulkner’ which passed 5-1. I have yet to receive an official notification from you of that dismissal.”

Pace replied via letter to Faulkner on March 31.

“The fiscal court is a court of record, and the record reflects that you were dismissed by move, second and majority vote as an at-will status employee, and as to serving at the pleasure of the judge/executive; effective March 17, 2020.

Faulkner offered her thoughts about court’s decision not to set a salary for Branham’s appointment as deputy judge-executive.

“After the unfortunate death of Judge Pace, the court had an emergency meeting to appoint an interim judge-executive and also decided to create a new position for the then deputy judge-executive (Janet Townsend) so that her employment could be assured when a replacement for Judge Pace was appointed,” she said. “There was a special called meeting later at which a new position was created for the then Finance Officer (Arik Kaskey) so that his employment could also be assured. These two new positions would not be considered part of the judge-executive’s staff the same as the treasurer and assistant treasurer are not. Now the only position left filled in the judge-executive’s office was that of the administrative assistant who had already given notice that her last day of employment would be Oct. 29, 2021.

“Therefore, as of November 1st, 2021, there would be no one working for the newly appointed judge-executive. He needed to put together a staff. As I am told, he asked Ms. Townsend to re-assume her position as deputy judge-executive, a request which she declined. She told me she suggested to Judge Branham that he hire me to be his deputy judge-executive because of my 7+ years of experience in that office. He then asked me to be his deputy judge/executive and I accepted. He also hired an executive assistant, I believe the same one that Ms. Townsend had planned to hire to replace the admin assistant that was leaving.

“Judge Branham also asked Arik Kaskey to re-assume his position as finance officer and he accepted. Judge now had his office staff that state law (KRS 67.711(1) says serves at his pleasure and the fiscal court shall set reasonable compensation for these positions. As you know the Fiscal Court chose to only set salary for the executive assistant and finance officer as requested by order from Judge Branham, but not for the deputy judge-executive.”