Boyle magistrate has different perspective on Parks & Rec negotiations

Published 5:26 pm Friday, February 22, 2019


Guest columnist

For many decades, Paul Harvey’s nationwide radio program ended with his famous quote, “And now you know the rest of the story.” The purpose of this guest column is to make known a number of relevant points — listed below for full public disclosure. In essence, it is to clarify “The rest of the story” — with respect to recent negotiations between Boyle County Fiscal Court and the Danville City Commission about the future of our community’s Parks and Recreation complex.

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Our first meeting was held between the two Danville City Council members and two Boyle County magistrates on Monday, Feb. 11. Danville sent their contract attorney, who soon took the role of facilitator — for the City of Danville side of the table.

The purpose of that initial meeting? To begin exploration of concepts regarding parks management, property ownership and potential financial considerations. There was neither any discussion about reaching — nor any intent to rush to “consensus” on such intricate matters during this initial meeting.

Fast forward one week when we met at 4 p.m. on Feb. 18 — this time, as we had agreed at the end of meeting one, we would review an anticipated memorandum. It would simply outline the major issues under consideration.

Under the belief we would be receiving bulleted points for further consideration prior to that meeting, we adjourned hearing we would receive that document on Feb. 15. When it was not received on a timely basis, we sent an email late that day titled “Initial Meeting Summary,” affirming our agreement that a working document was anticipated. No reply was received until after the weekend.

Unfortunately, nothing arrived until an email, received at 12:18 p.m. Monday. It came less than four hours prior to convening our second negotiating session. We therefore had extremely limited time to review a four-page document in legal-ese. Rather than a meeting summary, its title began, “A recommendation of the Joint Ad Hoc Committee …” and though Danville’s attorney had stated it would be only a couple of pages, it covered a total of four, including signature lines and names of our committee members and Feb. 18 as the date for us to sign.

Totally unprepared for a signature document and to protect our constituent taxpayers’ interests, we would not go beyond our agreed-upon “initial meeting summary.” Here are just a few items of concern we identified in that late-arriving transmittal. Each caused immediate misgivings and significant alarm:

  • It came as a four-page apparently legal document with specific dates for signatures — Feb. 18 for our working group and Feb. 26 to be signed by our county judge-executive and Danville’s mayor.
  • Language in the document stated that a consensus had been reached.
  • It referenced two ordinances, previously unmentioned and unknown to us.
  • Although a continued annual financial contribution was discussed during the Feb. 11 meeting, it never went beyond our initial county offer of $50,000 due to our potential diminished parks role; the city document started at more than a quarter-million dollars.
  • Having raised the possibility of evaluating a city land transfer of 21 acres to begin discussions of its value, it appeared in the attorney’s document as if of equal value to transferring Boyle County’s equity in half of Millennium Park — ground of infinitely greater worth.
  • Specific “recommendation” language read that we would, if signing that day be agreeing to “adopt and approve the following plan.”
  • On the basis of all that appears above, the document had every feel of being a binding legal contract.
  • Major components discussed at the first meeting, such as Boyle County’s desire to negotiate for 10 acres of fairgrounds property were totally absent — a unilateral decision remarked on by the city attorney as non-negotiable.
  • A six-month city or county contract severance clause — potentially allowing Danville to “go it alone” that was never mentioned during our first meeting — could readily be interpreted to require county residents to pay park usage fees sometime in the future.

While these facts were not included in The Advocate-Messenger’s initial meeting account, neither was the Danville lawyer’s surprise opening statement: that the attorney’s document was the consensus from our initial meeting. That stunning remark set the stage and tone for the remainder of the meeting. Our magistrate colleague’s reply — captured in the Advocate and restated here was, “Surely to god you didn’t think we were going to say yes and agree to this.”

All throughout that second session, our side of the table spoke about a mutually advantageous conclusion that we hoped to reach between Danville and Boyle County. And that we would act in the best interest of both our Boyle County constituents and those of Danville’s city commissioners. Hopefully, this account will help both sides realize that our Boyle County magistrates came to the table then, and plan to come again — striving for a true consensus: one to the betterment of our entire community.

Now you know the rest of the story.


Tom Ellis is a Boyle County magistrate representing the county’s District 1. He is one of two magistrates who were appointed to serve on the joint working group looking into parks & recreation plans.