County hires high profile attorney to battle strip club lawsuit

by Dennis Sharkey

Jefferson County Commissioners have hired their own high profile attorney to battle a proposed sexually oriented business (SOB) near Meriden.

Last week commissioners met for more than an hour in closed session with attorney Mike Hayes. After the closed session commissioners instructed Hayes to send a letter of engagement to Tennessee attorney Scott Bergthold. His law firm has a Web site www.adultbusinesslaw.com.

On his Web site Bergthold lists several cities, counties and other government entities as his clients and he has authored several ordinances and statutes for those entities.

According to a story by the Columbia Missourian last fall, Bergthold represented the state of Missouri in defense of a law that restricted how SOBs could operate. Bergthold was paid $150 an hour by the state. The story also said one county in Georgia spent more than $106,000 to write ordinances. The city of Detroit spent $95,000.

Commissioners could not say how much an agreement with the attorney would be because they have not received a response.

Chairman Richard Malm referred to the county’s insurance company when asked about paying for the attorney. Malm said the county’s insurance company has approved of the hiring of Bergthold. Commissioners could not produce any documentation from the insurance company and that it was approved over the phone.

Malm said all of the hiring was done in open session, however, there is no mention in the approved minutes of a conversation via telephone with a representative of the insurance company.

Commissioners were also asked about an incident at an Oskaloosa City Council meeting last week when Hayes accused this reporter of “stirring up the entire county” for a story published March 31 concerning the federal lawsuit filed last month against the county by the operators of the proposed SOB.

Malm said questions would have to be directed toward Hayes and that he is a contractor. He later said that Hayes would be spoken with when asked about some issues concerning Hayes’ behavior in public.

“I don’t know; that’s a good question,” Malm said in response to a question about when the behavior would stop.

Examples were given where Hayes displayed disrespectful behavior during commission meetings. And they were not addressed at the time.

“I don’t think any of us condone rude or unprofessional behavior,” First District Commissioner Lynn Luck said.

Luck said she remembered the example that was given and did not dispute the claims by this reporter and a handful of others in the room.

In other actions:

• Mary Burns and Butch Wynkoop, members of the Delaware Township Fire District Board No. 11, met with commissioners on Monday and were confused about their situation.

Burns told commissioners that they now have a vacancy in their treasurer position but are having problems filling the position due to obstruction by Fire Chief John Gordon.

Burns indicated that a person has been selected but Gordon is standing in the way.

Malm asked if a majority of the five-person board was in favor. Burns indicated that three members were.

“The fire chief has no say in this,” Malm said. “Just do it. If you got three votes you can do anything you want to do.”

Burns said that Gordon is the secretary and at the last meeting he refused to record the motion made to appoint a new treasurer. She said they voted and it was approved.

Malm told them that the minutes can be amended and that it is a standard practice of all government entities.

Wynkoop said they have no access to the records, nor have they received a treasurer’s report in more than four months.

“We’re having trouble even looking at the books to do anything about the books,” Wynkoop said. “They’re under his lock and key with one key.”

Burns said board members used to have keys but the locks have been changed.

“You can’t just let people get by, by saying ‘You don’t have it,’” Luck said. “You can only ask people so many times.”

Malm heard enough at that point and told the board members they need to consult with their attorney and also said they may need to think about getting a new fire chief that will cooperate with the district.

County counselor Jan Hayes took it a step further and said they need to speak with County Prosecutor Robert Fox about what is happening.

Burns said they are under the impression that the attorney they do have is aligned with Gordon and that they don’t know how he is paid. She said they have already spoken with Fox and he told them to get their own attorney.

Wynkoop also made some remarks concerning the board’s bank. He said that his name has appeared on checks for several months but when he went to the bank recently they questioned his ability to look at bank records.

“I’ve been signing checks for over a year and a half now,” he said. “I have never signed my name on anything at the bank until this last week.”

Wynkoop also said the former treasurer has also been signing checks after being removed from the position.

The board was to meet Tuesday night. Wynkoop said based on what happens at the meeting, they may meet with an attorney.

Luck expressed some concern that funds may have been misappropriated and suggested a full audit of the district.

“You need one badly,” Luck said. “Whoever is this obstacle needs to be gone. You owe it to your taxpayers.”

• Former Planning and Zoning employee Donna Shimmin’s mother, Pat, appeared before commissioners to address the issue of her daughter’s voice still appearing on the answering machine for the department. Shimmin was fired on Dec. 23, 2010. Commissioners said they would remove her voice.

• Commissioners approved a contract with King Construction to begin bridge work on Ferguson Road north of Highway 92. Construction should begin around May 1.

• Just when residents of Northwind Drive thought that all issues were behind them a new one came to light on Monday.

Road and Bridge Director Francis Hubbard said all the trees the county was responsible for removing have been removed, however, there are more trees inside the subdivision that need to be removed.

Hubbard said a construction supervisor told him that it was the county’s responsibility, however, he disputes that. County Clerk Linda Buttron said she couldn’t recall trees inside the subdivision were part of the deal and would research the issue. Commissioners said they don’t recall those trees being the county’s responsibility either.

• Ambulance Director James Tweed met with commissioners and requested to advertise for a full-time paramedic position. Tweed is wanting to replace a paramedic that has left.

Currently shifts are being filled by part-time workers.

Malm asked Tweed if the department could get by with only a part-time worker and referenced a hiring freeze that is in place.

Tweed said besides himself and another supervisor there are only five full-time paramedics for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“I suppose I’m a little reluctant to let it go because we do have a hiring freeze,” Malm said.

Dunnaway and Luck did not agree however.

“We’ve got to keep the ambulance going,” Dunnaway said.

“There are some departments we can’t have a hiring freeze,” Luck said.

• County Health Director Eileen Filbert met with commissioners and reported that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has revoked the permit for Sun and Fun Campground’s lagoon due to overflow issues that have not been addressed over the past couple of years.

• Filbert announced a plan to include well water sample checks to be paid for by the Health Department with the costs attached to well inspection fees. Filbert said the county can get the tests conducted for less than $100. She said private homeowners are paying nearly $300 for the tests and this would save taxpayers money.

• Filbert said her department in conjunction with the Planning and Zoning Department and the Meadowlark District Extension unit plan to create a Power Point presentation titled “Welcome to the county.”

Filbert said the power point will help new residents with questions about permit procedures and animal care.

• Filbert addressed some numbers from a recently released study that ranks Jefferson County 70th in healthiness. More on the study in next week’s issue.

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Posted by on Apr 18 2011. Filed under County, County Commission, Government. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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