BENTON — Two members of the Marshall County Fiscal Court locked horns during the June 1 meeting as they discussed more than $300,000 that the county could owe due to a filing error.
Judge-Executive Kevin Neal said Marshall County taxpayers could foot the bill after the Kentucky Public Pensions Authority (KPPA) reported the county owes approximately $365,000 in back pay to retired Marshall County Sheriff’s employees that were rehired within the past three years.
Marshall County Sheriff Eddie McGuire said statute and regulations had been met, so the county should not have to pay the hefty sum. “That’s what’s on the agenda, that’s what we came here to talk about, I would appreciate it if you would consider appealing this issue,” McGuire said.
District 2 Commissioner Kevin Spraggs moved for County Attorney Jason Darnall to make an appeal when the attorney deems it necessary. The motion was seconded by District 1 Commissioner Justin Lamb. District 3 Commissioner Monti Collins also voted in favor of the motion.
Neal voted against the appeal.
By the time Spraggs made his motion, discussions had devolved into back-and-forth comments, primarily between Neal and County Attorney Jason Darnall. Neal lambasted Darnall for speaking with Murray State University radio station WKMS in August 2020 regarding an unrelated issue with E-911’s access to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. Neal drew parallels between that issue and current retirement woes, implying that Darnall jeopardized pending litigation and appeals when he talked to the media.
“Going to the media is absolutely not a process. I (condemn) it and I think the court should as well,” Neal said.
Darnall fired back, saying the media agency called him, not the other way around, and that his comments in the article did not endanger any pending litigation or appeals related to the database issue. He accused the judge of bringing it up to “deflect” from the retirement issue.
Neal’s sentiments regarding the media were not shared by at least one county commissioner as Lamb rose to Darnall’s defense.
“Judge, he has a right to speak to the media just like us commissioners have a right to speak to the media, the sheriff has a right to speak to the media, you have a right to speak to the media. He did nothing wrong,” Lamb said.
Neal said it had nothing to do with a right to speak to the media and more to do with accountability. He again harped on Darnall and McGuire’s comments to WKMS in the aforementioned article. But Darnall again said his own comments didn’t jeopardize anything.
“This is about a side issue about an on-going beef that you have with the sheriff. That’s all this is about,” Darnall said.
Neal also pressed McGuire more over the retirement issue and insisted it was the sheriff’s job and not the court’s to file the proper paperwork in the first place. McGruire said he felt it was still up for discussion.
During the May 11 meeting, Neal told the court that, according to KPPA, the county owes a large sum of funds because the state agency had not received the proper paperwork and documentation on some retirees that were hired at the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office within the past three years. Though Neal stated that it was the sheriff’s job to submit the documents, McGuire said his office was only granted permission to talk to KPPA in April.
The county, Neal said, was supposed to be exempt from having to pay into the employees’ retirement systems per a legislative change in 2014.