MADISON — The Boone County Commission appointed and re-appointed board members within the county on Jan. 5, and a debate regarding office space ensued during the session.
The commission appointed Charles Warner and Boone County Administrator Pam White for five-year terms on the Boone County Board of Health. It is worthy of noting that Boone County Prosecutor Donna Taylor expressed interest in serving on the board, citing her 25 years of experience in the health field.
Commissioner Brett Kuhn was appointed for a one-year term on the Boone County Historic Landmark Commission. The Commission reappointed Dean Green, Bobby Miller, and Kevin Graley for three-year terms on the Boone County Parks and Recreation Board and Boone County Sheriff Chad Barker for a three-year term on the Boone County Enhanced 911 Board.
Via a unanimous vote, The Boone County Commission approved a request from prosecuting attorney Donna Taylor to adjust Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Tim Gibson’s salary by $6,000 and increase it to $68,500 per year.
Additionally, the commission approved Taylor’s request to hire Branden Ledford for the position of assistant prosecuting attorney — a position left open because of the exit of Jennifer Anderson last month — at a salary of $80,000 per year. Ledford’s salary is $6,000 less than Anderson’s salary had been, which is applied to Gibson’s bump, according to Taylor.
In an interview with the CVN after the meeting, Taylor clarified the circumstances related to the hiring of Ledford, with whom she is in a relationship with but does not share a home, according to Taylor. She said she does not see the hiring as a conflict of interest and she explained her stance.
“Yes, Branden Ledford is my boyfriend,” she said. “He is also the only person who submitted a resume for the job. I spoke with a few other lawyers about the position, but nobody was interested. The budgetary situation in our county is a deterrent. Half of our employees could be eliminated in the 2021-2022 budget cycle, if the revenue stream doesn’t improve.”
In a continuing conversation during the open session regarding office space that the commission voted on Nov. 17 to extend to the probation office — which includes space traditionally allotted for the prosecuting attorney’s office and law library — the exchange became heated when Taylor requested movement of a request for realignment of the office space, which she claims is needed for an assistant prosecuting attorney. She also maintains that the library needs to be open to the public.
After a Dec. 29 meeting during which the situation was discussed, Commissioner Kuhn examined a map of the courthouse and physically performed a walk-through of the space in question. Commissioners say they are looking at alternatives and need more time to weigh their options.
“We’ll look into this wholeheartedly, and you’ll know something hopefully in the next day or so,” said Commission President Craig Bratcher. “To take a vote on something, we can’t just say 100%.”
Taylor responded, “You took a vote on something that you hadn’t even looked at…(inaudible).”
Bratcher then said, “and we apologize.”
Commissioner Brett Kuhn then stated, “I want the record to show that this wasn’t politically motivated. Probation has been asking us for years for office space and I can say categorically that this wasn’t politically motivated by any stretch.”
Bratcher added, “I don’t play them games. I’m not into political correctness.”
Taylor then said, “I’m just saying that at times it appears to be political.”
Kuhn then stated, “I don’t know what it appears to be, I’m telling you what my motivation is and that was to help the probation office.”
Chief Probation Officer for Boone and Lincoln counties Jerry Swanson said he felt sure that the situation could be resolved.
“I’m confident it will all get worked out,” Swanson said. “We’ve all got to work together. From my perspective, I wrote a letter asking for space again and I’ve been asking for space off and on for a number of years. At one point, I even reached out to the Supreme Court Administrative office in Charleston and they sent someone down to meet with the commission to see what was available, but we’ve been unfortunately stuck in the same space.”
He added, “We had two people early on and now we have 12 people in the same space. Under Judge (William) Thompson, the probation office has grown and the expansion of our drug court program and now family treatment court, it is badly needed.”
In other county commission news, the county committed to the renewal of a two-year contract with Delta Dental for employees with no rate changes.
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry @hdmediallc.com or at 304-307-2401.