Darren Doyle, story
A heated exchange between District 2 Constable Tim Skees and Edmonson County Fiscal Court ended with the court denying county constables the right to use blue lights and sirens. Skees followed the decision by storming out of the courtroom, removing his constable uniform and leaving it in the courthouse, later threatening the county with a lawsuit.
Skees, who provides his own car, fuel, and equipment, and also fulfills his duties strictly as a volunteer, has fought repeatedly for the right to use blue lights on his car and for access to the county police frequency. According to Kentucky law, (KRS) each county's fiscal court has the right to either allow or not allow their elected constables use of blue lights and sirens. Constables have never had authority to use blue lights and sirens in Edmonson County.
Const. Skees presented his case before the fiscal court again during the last meeting which was held at night, and Sheriff Shane Doyle spoke in favor of the job that Skees has regularly done for both county and city law enforcement. The issue was agreed to be placed on the agenda for a vote at today's meeting.
Judge Wil Cannon addressed the court today and cited an example of the same vote which recently took place in Breckinridge County, where each district constable's blue light access was voted on separately, not all constables as a whole. "The magistrate I spoke with did not have any problems with any constables. No problems."
He then quoted a section from KRS 189.950, sub-section 5, which states:
Any constable may, upon approval of the fiscal court in the county of jurisdiction, equip vehicles used by said officer as emergency vehicles with one (1) or more flashing, rotating or oscillating blue lights, visible under normal atmospheric condition from a distance of five hundred (500) feet to the front of such vehicle, and a siren, whistle or bell, capable of emitting a sound audible under normal conditions from a distance of not less than five hundred (500) feet. This equipment shall be in addition to any other equipment required by the motor vehicle laws. Any constable authorized by the fiscal court to utilize blue lights and a siren pursuant to this section shall maintain at least the insurance described by KRS 304.39-110.
"The question then becomes, can the fiscal court approve one constable to have them but deny another?" Cannon asked.
After brief discussion, County Attorney J.B. Hines said that his opinion of the statute allowed the court to vote on one or all constable access, and Cannon agreed.
"But, if you do that, we've got to have a reason why we're not going to allow one or more of the rest of the constables blue lights," Cannon said. "If we don't have a reason, we're opening up the door for a lawsuit. I don't think we'll get sued, but I know one constable has already threatened to do that."
Cannon also reminded magistrates of the statements made from county and city law enforcement during the last meeting in favor of Constable Skees. "They said Constable Skees was doing a very good job of helping the Sheriff's Department, helping City Police, and just helping people; broke-down motorists on the side of the road. So, we've got one constable out trying to do the right thing, and he does it voluntarily, but if we've got any other constables out there in that same capacity, I'm not aware of it."
Cannon continued: "On the other hand, we've got another constable who's actually been in the way of law enforcement as they were trying to do their duty. So, unlike Breckinridge County, we do have problems here with this issue." Cannon then opened up the floor for a motion and second, allowing a vote for constables to have blue light access. He clarified that the motion would be for any constable, then the court would discuss which ones specifically, would be granted access.
District 2 Magistrate Joe Durbin made the motion, but it was not seconded, which caused the motion to fail.
Mag. Durbin asked Cannon about the issue. "Judge, you said we'd be wrong if we discriminated against one of the constables if they weren't allowed blue lights, but isn't it also wrong to discriminate against Mr. Skees, who has the approval of our law enforcement, when other constables here are not qualified?"
Cannon responded that he felt like it was a liability issue if one constable was allowed, yet another denied.
Durbin replied with, "I'm tired of Tim getting jerked around. We all say, Yeah, he's a good guy, he's ok, he's even assisting, but it's a shame." He then made a comparison. "It would be the same if I, Joe Durbin, wasn't doing a good job as magistrate, but you automatically associated all magistrates being the same...and it's not right."
County Attorney Hines clarified the motion again to state that it was simply to determine if Edmonson County fiscal court would allow blue lights for any one or more constable. He also explained that the court could later set guidelines and criteria as to who could have them, and that "discrimination" was probably not accurate terminology.
Constable Skees addressed the court. "Let's speak the truth here," he said. "I'm being railroaded here. I'm being held responsible for what Constable Lindsey might do. I've paid my dues, guys. Ask the Brownsville Police Chief..ask the Edmonson County Sheriff."
Skees brought up the lawsuit reference made by Judge Cannon earlier in the discussion. "You talk about 'might get sued?' I have no problem suing someone who discriminates against me, and if you go through with this, that is exactly what you're doing to me. You guys are discriminating against me."
Skees and Cannon went back-and-forth as the conversation became more diligent. "You're doing everything you're doing because you want to, nobody's making you," Cannon said. "And these men have the authority, by law, to either allow it or not, and that's their decision."
Skees replied with, "And their decision is based solely on what Constable Lindsey might do, and we can't let that be the case."
After another minute or two of the same rhetoric from each side, Attorney Hines spoke up. "Respectfully, we had a motion that came up on simple issue as to whether or not to allow blue lights. The motion was made with no second, thus the issue is dead and it's time to move on."
Constable Skees quickly exited the courtroom as Cannon asked once more if there was a second, which there was not.
Constable Skees submitted a letter to the editor that outlines his plan to hire an attorney and sue the fiscal court for "actions which have made it difficult if not impossible for me to do the job to which I was elected," according to a statement in that letter.