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Grand jury declines to indict Miller in ethics probe

BY CORIANNE EGAN cegan@paducahsun.com

Marshall County Judge-Executive Mike Miller was cleared of criminal charges of wrongdoing Thursday after a Marshall County grand jury found there wasn't enough evidence to proceed to trial.

Information in the case was presented to the grand jury Thursday afternoon in Benton by special prosecutor Zac Greenwell. The jury returned a no true bill, dismissing all charges against Miller. 

"We are just glad to get this over with and get it behind us," said Miller's attorney, Marty Johnson. "Mike's intent is to get on with county government."

Miller was being investigated for charges of misconduct, a misdemeanor, and making a false entry in the public record, a D felony. The charges stem from allegations made at a Marshall County Fiscal Court meeting by Commissioner Misti Drew, who found that a part-time county employee, Golden Rod Kirk, had been receiving unemployment benefits after officially retiring.

Kirk served as a county animal control officer for more than 30 years. Earlier in 2013, according to the investigative report, some county commissioners received complaints that Kirk was no longer able to carry out his job duties. He was in his 80s, so the county offered him a supervisor job with a 50 percent pay cut, but Kirk refused it. In February 2013, the county held a retirement party for Kirk.

It was discovered months later that Kirk was being paid unemployment benefits. Information from Kirk's personnel record, signed by Miller, showed he was laid off. For a county employee to be laid off or terminated, the Fiscal Court must take action.

Drew filed an ethics complaint against Miller for approving Kirk's departure without notifying the board. The matter was referred to the Kentucky Attorney General's Office, and the Kentucky State Police began an investigation. A nearly 100-page report was delivered to Greenwell earlier this month.

Miller, the longest-tenured judge-executive in the state, is in his 41st year in the office. He will face off against Republican Kevin Neal in November's election. Miller hasn't run opposed since 2006 and has never struggled with an election in any of his 10 prior races.

If Miller went to trial and was convicted, he could have seen up to five years in jail for the felony charge. Greenwell can present the case to a different grand jury if more evidence arises.

Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.

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