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Sparks Fly at Fiscal Court Meeting Over City/County Law Enforcement

hc fiscal courtHOPKINS COUNTY, Ky. (4/1/14) — There wasn't a dull moment in today's Hopkins County Fiscal Court meeting as accusations flew around the room about jurisdiction of city and county law enforcement agencies.

County Attorney Todd P'Pool addressed the court from the podium while handing a notice to Hopkins County Sheriff Frankie Latham. P'Pool said the notice was the result of a phone call he received Friday from Madisonville Mayor David Jackson.

“There's been a growing problem in law enforcement in Hopkins County,” said P'Pool, “and I wanted to make the court aware of it because it is reaching a very dangerous level from the standpoint of legal liability.”

P'Pool pointed out the fact that several drug busts have occurred throughout the county over the past few weeks.

“Sheriff Latham has expressed his concern over that because it's taking place by the Madisonville Police Department,” said P'Pool.

P'Pool said during the Friday phone conversation with Jackson, he was informed that Jackson had just spoken with Hopkins County Judge Donnie Carroll regarding the possibility of seeking indictments against Madisonville police officers.

At that point, Carroll interjected a comment into P'Pool's statement to the court.

“Excuse me,” said Carroll, “can I just say something, Todd? There was never anything mentioned about any indictments, on my part, to anybody.”

P'Pool continued addressing the court.

“You can take that letter,” said P'Pool. “That is my notice to Sheriff Latham to cease and desist all statements of any criminal indictments against any Madisonville police officer, who has jurisdictional authority to make any arrest countywide. When they begin drug investigations, sometimes those drug dealers move around. So, if they're outside the city limits, they can legally complete their investigation and make a successful arrest, which they've done numerous times. So, any threat of criminal indictment to any member of the Madisonville Police Department is improper and has no legal basis.”

P'Pool also read from an email that he said was from Chief Wade Williams. P'Pool said Williams prepared the email for him to read because he was going to be out of town during the fiscal court meeting. He provided the court a copy of the email.

P'Pool said the email was a compilation of Williams' recollections of the Friday morning telephone call between Jackson and Carroll. According to P'Pool's reading of Williams' email, Williams was listening to the phone call because it was on speaker phone. P'Pool said Williams stated he'd heard Carroll use the term “indict someone for wasting taxpayer money,” in the conversation.

P'Pool said Williams' email explained that the conversation began with the topic of Madisonville Police making an arrest in Nortonville on a target that the Sheriff's Office had planned to work on.

Further comments in the email indicated there had been a meeting between city and county officials Friday afternoon.

“Judge Carroll has no authority to even issue indictments,” said P'Pool. “So when he says, 'We may have to indict someone,' it's certainly not my office. MPD is doing a great job.”

P'Pool said threats of criminal indictments by the Sheriff's Office against other officers in the county raise serious legal liability issues.

“I've handed Sheriff Latham a letter to cease and desist,” P'Pool told the court. “I've copied Judge Carroll. I've copied Commonwealth's Attorney David Massamore. 'All statements or threats of indictments against any Madisonville police officer will cease and desist.' I will not tolerate intimidation from anybody while these folks are out doing good work.”

Carroll responded to P'Pool statements.

“There was never a mention of indictments by me,” said Carroll. “The only thing I said was, 'It might be something the grand jury will have to look at to get these two organizations reconciled together.' For the simple fact is, I don't believe the taxpayers are getting their money's worth by two separate organizations working on the same cases. I felt it was of those things that are serious because you're bringing officers out there with no back up. We had a meeting that afternoon at two o'clock. At that meeting there was an agreement with the city of Madisonville that the city and county would share information as to who they working on so there wouldn't be overlapping. Because there were buys set up by the county and the city came, and did search warrants and arrests. And so, we're both spending money on the same thing and (I) just thought, 'That's a waste of taxpayer money.' And, I thought in good faith we met with mayor, chief and Lt. Mitchell and they said they were going to start doing this — exchanging information — and that was one of the things that came out of the meeting. At no time did I ever mention anything about an indictment.”

P'Pool responded by saying that Jackson told P'Pool Friday that those were Carroll's precise words and that Williams also said Carroll used those terms.

Carroll told P'Pool that he did not use the term “indictment” to Jackson nor Williams, and that “I want to hear that out of the horses' mouth.”

Carroll then asked the Sheriff if he would like to comment.

Latham stood and addressed the court.

“I've got one statement to make on this and I'm not going to go any further at this time,” said Latham. “This involved a homicide investigation that occurred out on Continental Drive — a missing person. We took another look into this case starting in spring of last year. Scott Troutman was the detective that was on that case. He conveyed to us at the office that we were using a confidential informant out there on that investigation. There was some drug activity that was involved in all this. He was put in charge to monitor that situation. He called me one morning early and said that Kentucky State Police and Madisonville Police Department had went in and made a search on a potential homicide scene. He also told me that he had an understanding with a Lt. Mitchell of the Madisonville Police Department about notifying them if anything happened out there since it was a potential homicide scene. He later came in and was very, very angry, and talking about, they came in over the top of his investigation; that he had warned them of the investigation, and that he felt like that they ought to be indicted. And that's the only time we've ever heard of indictment in our office was actually from Scout Troutman. And, that was conveyed in this meeting that we had. In this meeting that we had, I got the other side of the story.”

Latham told the court that Mitchell said during the Friday meeting that he had called Troutman the evening of the search and that Troutman said he was not needed at the scene and for Mitchell to proceed with the search.

“So that's where all this is coming from,” said Latham. “It starts with Scout Troutman. He's the one that is going around stirring this and stirring this until Lt. Josh Mitchell told us the background of this story in the meeting the other day with the mayor.”

P'Pool questioned Latham about any inclination to call a grand jury to handle the situation. Latham said he had not talked to anyone about it. P'Pool asked if Latham heard Carroll speak about that possibility earlier in the court meeting.

“He can speak for himself on that,” said Latham. “What I'm saying is this grand jury thing came from Scout Troutman. Scout Troutman has probably talked to Judge Carroll. He's talked to everybody down in my office about this incident. I feel like he's the one who has stirred it and stirred it and stirred it until it didn't come to his convenience, and now he's backtracking.”

P'Pool then asked if Troutman was present during the Friday meeting. Latham indicated that he was not.

“And the politics begin,” said Carroll.

After murmuring between Carroll and P'Pool, the judge called for reports from county departments.

In other business, Fiscal Court approved the appointment of David Adams to the North Hopkins Water District.

Fiscal Court also listened to a request from John Peters for a $10,000 donation from the county to the Glema Mahr Center for the Arts for youth programs.

Magistrate Larry Wilson asked if the center spends at least $10,000 a year on youth programs because the county is limited to donations that would only go toward those services. Peters said the center spends approximately $75,000 annually on youth programs.

Rita Dukes Smith
SurfKY News Director

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