First hearing held in library board lawsuit

Published 2:00 pm Monday, October 2, 2023

Clark County Judge-Executive Les Yates sued his fellow members of the Clark County Fiscal Court and the Clark County Public Library’s Board of Trustees in August, alleging that the Fiscal Court violated provisions of KRS 173.4902 (2) when voting to appoint Carlye Thacker – who has since been sworn in – to fill a seat vacated seat on the board.

The first hearing in the case occurred Friday morning in Clark County Circuit Court.

A motion by the defendants to dismiss the case against the fiscal Court and Board of Trustees was dismissed, as was a motion for injunctive relief by the plaintiff that would have prevented the Board of Trustees from recognizing Thacker’s appointment.

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As such, the case will move forward while Thacker may continue with her duties.

The Clark County Fiscal Court and Clark County Public Library’s Board of Trustees, serving as defendants, were represented by Clark County Attorney William Elkins and local attorney Dodd Dixon.

Yates, serving as plaintiff, was represented by attorney Amy D. Cubbage of the law firm Tachau Meek.

“[Carlye] can serve and vote, and everything is appropriate with her participation, and from the library standpoint, that was our main concern,” said Dixon.

“The next steps in the case is we are going to agree on a briefing schedule and brief what’s called the merits basically [about] whether or not the procedures were followed,” said Cubbage. “[We will] then tender it to the court for decision.”

In their attempts to dismiss the case, the defendants brought up the point that the vote for Carlye Thacker passed at a fiscal court meeting without dissent.

“It boggles my mind to figure out how somebody, an elected official, votes unanimously on a topic and then turns and sues everyone else for voting the same exact way that he voted,” Dixon said.

Elkins also argued that, as written in KRS 173.30, Yates could not take action by nominating any potential candidate other than the two suggested by the Clark County Public Library Board of Trustees – Thacker and Kim Elkins – which were then sent to the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives (KDLA) before being sent to the Fiscal Court.

“They want to talk about what the [Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives] is not allowed to do, but [the statute] didn’t allow him to go back and argue with KDLA about how they came up with the names,” Elkins added.

Cubbage argued that Yates was suing in his capacity.

“He’s not suing on behalf of the county,” Cubbage said. “He’s suing on behalf of himself as a constitutional officer…he has the authority to sue to vindicate his rights either in the [Kentucky] Constitution or statutes against those who might infringe them.”

Judge Kristin J. Clouse of the 25th Judicial District ruled against the dismissal.

“The county judge is empowered to vindicate his rights in the procedure,” Clouse said.

Separately, near the start of proceedings, Cubbage asked for declaratory and injunctive relief.

“The injunctive relief would be to restrain Dr. Thacker from exercising her authority on the board. [Judge Clouse] denied that today as far as a temporary matter, though we still have a request for a permanent injunction,” Cubbage said following proceedings. “The bigger ask here is a declaratory judgment, which would simply be the judge ruling that the procedure that was used by the Fiscal Court was incorrect and you have to go back and redo it.”

Dixon brought up Robert’s Rules of Order, a manual of parliamentary procedure, when arguing that Thacker’s appointment was within legal grounds.

“According to Robert’s Rules, which is the acknowledged procedure that we’ve used for decades, a silent [vote], an abstention, or no vote at all, goes to the majority,” Dixon said. “Dr. Thacker [is] an intelligent woman, but she can not dictate to the other board members of the library board any policy positions she’s one of five. I don’t see any reasons to use the court’s extraordinary powers to issue an injunction .”

Clouse also stated that a temporary injunction would be an extraordinary measure. She did not believe it was necessary based on the equities heard during the day’s hearing.

“This case is purely about the interpretation of two statutes,” she said.

After fourteen days, during which the defendants can decide if they want to bring in KDLA for questioning or take other actions – such as filing a counterclaim or pleading that there’s an indispensable party that needs to be brought before the court – a determination will be made as to whether or not any discovery has been necessary before making a briefing schedule.