Mosley to serve as judge, Mullins returns to EMS
By Karen Jones Cody
One step at a time, change is coming to Knott County government.
On Monday, the Knott County Fiscal Court voted to give magistrate Jamie Mosley the county’s top position. He follows Deputy Judge Greg Mullins, who has served as acting judge for three months.
Judge-Executive Randy Thompson was ordered to report to prison on December 6 following the denial of an appeal to overturn his conviction for using public funds to influence the 2006 election. Judge Thompson retained his position pending the decision to file one final appeal.
Deputy Judge-Executive Greg Mullins was tasked with running the office in Judge Thompson’s absence. He was immediately faced with a difficult situation.
In January, the county was notified by officials with the state Department for Local Government that an unexpected reduction in coal severance tax funding had left their budget with a shortfall of around $900,000, and the budget for the remainder of the fiscal year must be adjusted in order to balance by June 30 as required by law. Officials from DLG brought a presentation to the fiscal court advising them to implement budget cuts and to develop a new revenue source to offset the loss of coal severance funding.
The DLG officers suggested forming a budget committee to develop a plan. This committee, composed of Deputy Judge Mullins, County Treasurer Kevin Jacobs, District Two Magistrate Barry Watts and citizen representative Paul Hoskins, held several meetings (open to the public) before finally recommending a plan that included moderate cuts to limit rather than eliminate services, along with an occupational tax to provide needed revenue.
Three of the county’s magistrates then rejected that plan, choosing to rely on cutbacks only in spite of the state officials’ advice. For the past two years, the same three had adamantly refused to pass a one percent occupational tax Judge Thompson had suggested to avoid this crisis. Struggling to meet a Feb. 6 deadline, the deputy judge and financial advisors examined every detail of the budget to make cuts that would preserve as many jobs and services as possible, then negotiated with magistrates to gain approval of a plan. Magistrates Jamie Mosley, Calvin Waddles and Barry Watts demanded the cuts be made from the LGEA fund (they later added the Sportsplex fund, because they had erroneously believed it was included in LGEA), up to 25% until the budget was balanced. A revised budget was finally approved and accepted by the Department of Local Government.
Meanwhile, the magistrates had also directed County Attorney Tim Bates to challenge the status of Judge Thompson, which resulted in a request being filed with the court system. Knott County officials recused themselves, which led to a hearing in Floyd County Circuit Court. On Friday, March 8, that court ordered Judge Thompson removed from office.
Magistrates immediately asked for a special meeting on Monday, March 11. Items on the agenda were the assumption of duties of the county judge-executive by a fiscal court member, and a resolution on the status of judge-executive assistants, secretaries, clerical workers and the deputy judge-executive.
In Monday’s meeting, Tim Bates advised the court that he had received a call from the judge in Floyd County about Judge Thompson’s removal. Bates said the judge’s duties should now be assumed by one of the court members. Barry Watts nominated Jamie Mosley and Calvin Waddles provided the second. District Three Magistrate Mark Chaffins said he thought the order of succession required the Coroner to step in, but Bates cited a statute naming a member of the court instead. The court voted to have Mosley act as judge-executive, with only Mark Chaffins opposing.
This discussion was over in less than five minutes, and then the court voted to go into closed session to discuss the remaining agenda item.
Twenty minutes later, the open meeting resumed. “The governor will eventually appoint someone else as judge, so for now, we will reappoint everyone,” Jamie Mosley said. He added that Deputy Judge Greg Mullins had chosen to resign that position and return to his job as director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Tim Bates said no additional resolution would be required for Mosley to be the person authorized to sign checks for the county.
Greg Mullins told the Times that the court had asked him to remain as deputy judge, but he felt it was time to step aside. “I was appointed to that position by Judge Thompson, and since he was ordered to vacate the office and the court appointed Mr. Mosley, I thought I should let the fiscal court have a fresh start. Hopefully they will make decisions that are in the best interest of the county, the citizens of the county – that’s what is important to me.
“I think it’s time we put politics aside and do what’s right for the citizens,” Mullins said. “I don’t have any ill feelings toward anyone. I just thought it was in the best interest of all involved to step aside and have things go forward. We will have a new judge soon, and I hope it will be his goal to keep progress going for our county instead of moving backward.
“I still hope to have involvement and be an active part of county government – but if those in power don’t want me to be, that’s fine, too. For the last three months, I’ve been full-time in the judge’s office, and Deputy Director Jo Short took care of Emergency Management. It’s time for me to get back and be sure that department is getting the full attention it deserves.
“In the last three months, I’ve tried to do what was right and best for the county. There were tough decisions that had to be made. I have no regrets – I tried to make the best of a bad situation and act in the best interest of the county.”
Mullins said he believes it is important for the county to keep expanding programs that have been positive and successful. “I hope I continue to see progress with things like the horse trail ride, ATV center and the Sportsplex – I hope to see projects finished on the hill,” he said.
Jamie Mosley said he was willing to step up and take on the responsibility of the office, but added that he expected the governor to appoint a new judge in a couple of weeks to serve until the next election. He added that he had no hard feelings toward Mark Chaffins, who cast the only vote against his election.
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