Boyle County wants to hear from Peckler: Judge blamed for jail overcrowding offered chance to ‘present his side of the story’

Published 6:48 am Friday, October 12, 2018

Boyle Fiscal Court says it will send a letter to a local judge whose practices have become the focal point of a jail study.

Boyle County Circuit Court Judge Darren Peckler will be formally invited by Judge-Executive Harold McKinney and magistrates to have an opportunity to “present his side of the story.”

As the court discussed earlier this week what would be on the agenda for today’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council meeting, with a Boyle-Mercer Joint Jail Committee meeting directly after, Magistrate John Caywood said, “As I thought about it, I think a letter of invitation to Judge Peckler would be nice.”

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Peckler’s practices were criticized in the study’s draft, released last month. The study points to multiple policies put in place by Peckler that it blames for contributing to over-population issues at the Boyle County Detention Center. The study calls for faster case processing, reforms to cash bail and creation of a certified drug court in Boyle and Mercer counties, among other recommendations. Boyle and Mercer counties are two of only seven counties in the state without a state-certified drug court.

The jail study states that consultants working on the study for Brandstetter Carroll experienced hurdles getting information to complete the study put in place by Peckler, due to his order prohibiting members of the court from talking to them.

Caywood said the letter of invitation could serve as a way to open up communication with the judge, giving him an opportunity to give “his thoughts on the report. I think I know what the answer will be, but we offer it.”

McKinney added, “in a forum that he chooses to have,” and said he will draft the letter.

“In order for him to have the opportunity to explain his side,” Caywood said. “We’ve heard only one side, pretty much.”

Peckler has been invited to comment on the jail study by The Advocate-Messenger; he has not responded.

Discussions about how to handle the initial draft version of the jail study were also held. McKinney said he felt the counties “still owe the public a meeting that invites people out in the evening in both counties; we owe the public that. This is going to be something that’s going to be in every conversation.”

Magistrate Jack Hendricks said, “We need to wait until the final report is out.”

“But we need to go ahead and start talking about it,” McKinney said.

Parks & Rec director search

Danville-Boyle County Parks and Recreation board Chair Rodger Ross updated Boyle Fiscal Court on the search to replace retiring Parks & Rec Director John Drake during this week’s meeting.

“I’d like to address the elephant in the room right off the bat,” Ross told the court. He said the search committee — consisting of one representative each from the county, Danville and the Parks & Rec board — has narrowed the pool of applicants down to four main ones.

“It would be inappropriate for me to release those names at this time,” Ross said. As of last Friday, he said background searches were being conducted on each applicant, since they will be working with children.

“If anyone has any questions, you can contact me, but I’m not releasing any names until they’re released to the (Parks & Rec) board during the October meeting. We should be able to make a decision in the November or December meeting, and I hope to be wrapped up by February,” Ross said.

“By when?” Magistrate Phil Sammons asked.

“February is my personal deadline …” Ross said, to which Sammons asked why it’s “taking so long.”

“That’s my deadline. I want to have it done by Dec. 31 — I want to start the new year with (the new person) but not saying that to lock myself in. We want to take our time on this and do things right,” Ross said.

“Are you putting this off because your term will be up at the end of December?” Sammons asked.

“No,” Ross responded. “This will be done before. I won’t leave before we have a new director.” He said there will be a probationary year in the contract, so the new director’s performance can be evaluated.

How to handle further needs in Millennium Park was also discussed, but Ross said he wasn’t sure how to proceed since the ad hoc committee — a joint committee among Danville, Boyle County and Parks & Rec that has guided capital spending in the park in the past — has been suspended for the timebeing. “There are some needs we’ll have, due to issues with equipment, but I guess we’ll address that when the ad hoc committee is back up.”

Magistrate Hendricks said he wasn’t sure when or if the committee would be reinstated, and asked Ross to also submit the information to Danville City Commission.

“So they will be aware, so both bodies are aware. Then if we do have a meeting with both bodies, it can be addressed at that time,” Hendricks said.

In other business

• Caywood asked Convention and Visitor Bureau Director Jennifer Kirchner if she could comment on “the lawsuit’s progress.” CVB filed suit against owners of three lodging businesses for not paying the required 3-percent transient room tax they should have been collecting and paying for more than a year. They include: The Farm LLC, 450 Waterworks Road; Danville’s Delight, 340 North First Street; and The Lake House, 3035 Waterworks Road. All three are operated by Angela and Jacob Martin.

“It’s moving along. It’s unfortunate,” Kirchner said. “But it’s moving along. I’m confident that we’ll make progress.

“We’re talking about a lotta’ money, aren’t we?” Sammons said.

“We are,” Kirchner answered.

McKinney then cautioned the court not to talk about pending litigation.

• After an executive session was held for a personnel issue, Magistrate Patty Burke made a motion moving for “Judge McKinney to excuse an employee from employment, at (McKinney’s) convenience.”

McKinney clarified that a Boyle County employee would be terminated.