Review of official ouster laws may be needed
Times Staff Report
It has happened twice now that a Knott County judge-executive is behind bars at a federal prison on a charge of buying votes, and for the second time no one has begun proceedings to remove from office a convicted felon while he continues to draw a salary funded by the taxpayers.
Something is wrong with this picture.
Former Judge Donnie Newsome kept his position as judge-executive during his entire sentence on vote buying, and his successor, Randy Thompson, is now doing the same. Thompson’s office told WYMT-TV last month that he has no intention of resigning, despite his current internment in a federal prison in Pennsylvania.
According to the Kentucky Constitution, once an elected official is convicted of a felony, he or she must be removed from office. It is in black and white. There must be an action taken. That hasn’t happened so far in Knott County.
The people of Knott County are again forced to pay the salary of a man who can no longer do the job, and by law is no longer permitted to do so. This could happen in any Kentucky county, but it’s something that never should.
As we understand it, state law places the onus on an elected official, the commonwealth’s attorney, to begin proceedings to oust a county official convicted of a felony. Our question is why? Why is that official not immediately removed from office?
In Judge Thompson’s case, he was convicted by a jury of his peers, and a lengthy appeals process failed to overturn that conviction. His only avenue now is to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, a body who hears less than 1 percent of the cases filed.
Why is he now allowed to remain in office even for a single day?
We urge our state lawmakers to take a closer look at the laws regarding officials convicted of a felony. Perhaps a review of those laws could better determine how convicted felons are able to remain in office, even though they are no longer allowed to vote or run for office again. It seems, based on the past two administrations in Knott County, that Kentucky is in need of an update.
— The Hazard Herald
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