Boyle judge-exec wants $40K for new deputy

Published 6:44 pm Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A new deputy judge-executive is on the horizon for Boyle County Fiscal Court, if all turns out as planned during the new court’s first meeting Tuesday. Judge-Executive Howard Hunt said Tuesday he will ask the court to approve a salary of $40,000 for Steve Knight, a local resident and business owner.

“I will meet with the finance committee — comprised of magistrates Jamey Gay and Jason Cullen — Wednesday morning to discuss it further, then bring it to the court next week,” Hunt said Tuesday afternoon.

Knight will not be sworn in or bonded, meaning he cannot sit in during Hunt’s absence or deal with county funds, such as approving purchases or signing checks. Hunt said he is still working on a “comprehensive job description” to put expectations for the position in writing.


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“His function as deputy doesn’t have the same legal breadth that I do; he’ll be a basic staff advisor — not bonded and no legal authority to sit in the chair,” Hunt said.

Part of his job description may involve “improved community relations through PR and social media. That’s not a function anyone at the county has,” Hunt said.

Rich Orenstein, staff attorney for Kentucky Association of Counties, said KRS 67.711 allows the deputy judge to have all of the powers of the county judge, except presiding over the court.

“However, the judge-exec can curtail those powers and limit them,” Orenstein said. “I’ve done this (job) for 20 years and have seen those who have full powers (as deputy judge-executive) and some who are limited.”

About half of Kentucky’s 120 counties have a deputy judge-executive.

Also, Orenstein said Hunt can change his mind down the road if he chooses. “He can give the person additional powers …” that fall within the KRS.

County Treasurer Mary Conley has served as deputy judge-executive since former Judge-Executive Tony Wilder appointed her in 1994. Conley has worked for the county since 1992. Due to the extra hours she worked in the deputy judge-executive role, she had been paid a stipend in addition to her yearly salary of around $1,500 and reclassified as an exempt employee.

Conley said the court must first create a line item in the budget for the $40,000 salary if approved, since it does not exist.

“I think it’s a waste of money,” said returning Magistrate Phil Sammons. “I’m elected to look after people’s tax money … I don’t think we need this position.”

Sammons said he feels the county is strapped enough as is, “and $40,000, and another 25-30 percent of that in benefits? … We’re spending more than we’re taking in … I’m not for raising taxes, but we gotta do something. And I don’t think a new position at $40,000 is the way to go.”

When asked about funding the position, Hunt said, “I’ve already spoken with Treasurer Conley.

She says the funds are there in one of my accounts.”

John Caywood, the other returning magistrate on the court, said he will reserve his opinion until he sees the job description.

“It’s difficult to answer whether I’m for or against this until I know what the duties are,” Caywood said. “And to see if our investment in that role will have an economic return. What are we going to get for the position? I need to know more about it.”

Caywood said he understands “Steve’s talents. He’s got talents. He works on my computer; I’m a customer of his. We’ve had a nice relationship.”

Caywood called back because he wanted to add a comment. “You know, we’ve got a new team in place. And it’s all about figuring out each others’ strengths, and listening to one another. We have to listen to each other.”

Knight said, “It’s an honor to be asked by him to consider serving in the role.” He said one of his very first jobs was working for “Gen. Hunt,” back in 1983. Hunt also previously owned a computer company, one of the first in Danville.

“Really, he got me set on my path in the rest of my life. It got me to where I am now that I own my own company,” Knight said. He owns Danville Computer Doc and Cool Jazz Web Design Studio. He named his web design company for his love of music — a trumpet player all of his life, Knight said he is a founding member of the original Advocate Brass Band.

Knight regularly attends fiscal court meetings, as well as Danville City Commission, and has been a vocal opponent of taxation and government spending. He was among concerned citizens who spoke against recent water rate increases affecting Perryville and Junction City.

“What you’ve seen in the past is someone who is an interested citizen … and has a concern about the way something is going,” Hunt said. “… If he comes to work here in the county, all of that political advocacy would cease to exist. So where you’ve seen him operate in the past will not be seen in the future.”

Hunt said in the military, he had “staff and enlisted officers who would advise me with counsel, data, research, etc. Over the years, I have valued Steve’s advisory capacity because he can articulate very effectively — a position that is both pro and con in a given situation. I appreciate the depth and breadth of his ability to do that.”

Hunt said he feels Knight encompasses a “unique ability to show a perspective or understanding of different points of view. I can appreciate that when I’m going through my decision-making and thought process. That’s why we have that relationship.”

He calls Knight a “consummate researcher; he’s an R&D (research and development) person … In the future, with the growth and everything that faces this county, I have a great deal of confidence with his research ability to go out and bring out a lot of perspective with data to help build a position for decision-making.”

“Really, what I’d be doing is to facilitate what the judge and the fiscal court determines will be their priorities to help support them, in making those priorities come to life,” Knight said.

When asked, Knight said, “I absolutely did contribute to Gen. Hunt’s campaign” for judge-executive. Hunt, who was previously a Democrat, ran as a Republican to beat Democrat Gary Chidester for the seat.

Election finance records show Knight contributed twice to Hunt’s campaign during the primary election — once on April 12, 2018, in the amount of $50; and once on May 21, 2018, in the amount of $1,568.50.

“And that’s public record. I feel like the general has all of the qualifications this county needs to run it, and I wanted to support him,” Knight said. “He’s served his country, his state and wants to serve his county. My contribution was no prearrangement, and I supported other candidates; he wasn’t the only one.”