Ranshaw, colleagues at odds

Mark Ranshaw

It would appear that certain members of Pulaski County Fiscal Court are becoming increasingly at odds with each other.

Tuesday's fiscal court meeting kicked off in an unusual manner as Judge-Executive Steve Kelley asked magistrates to approve the agenda as put forth -- meaning there should be no deviations from it. District 3 Magistrate Jimmy Wheeldon made the motion with a second from District 2 Magistrate Mike Wilson.

This didn't sit well with District 4 Magistrate Mark Ranshaw, who was thwarted in his attempt to amend the agenda. "I have a public statement to make and another motion to make also," he said.

At this point, County Attorney Martin Hatfield said the court should first vote on the motion already on the floor -- which passed with only Ranshaw voting no. He insisted that a motion to amend should have been considered. Hatfield responded that the court doesn't follow Robert's Rules of Order and urged Ranshaw to add his items to the agenda prior to the next meeting (February 11).

"You guys are doing this just to shut me up and I don't think it's right," Ranshaw said.

The meeting continued according to the printed agenda. Ranshaw never specified during court what either addition he had proposed might pertain to but after the meeting told the Commonwealth Journal that he had wanted to address a statement Judge Kelley had addressed to him during the last meeting on January 14.

Two weeks ago, the fiscal court meeting was winding down after an executive session involving personnel and property issues when Ranshaw presented the court with a series of motions -- starting with one requiring Fiscal Court to approve who is authorized to use a badge through the newly-launched county police force.

Back in October, court members approved the police force to comply with a new federal rule requiring local dispatch centers accessing the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database to fall under the management control of a single criminal justice agency that will accept the responsibility of ensuring that CJIS (Criminal Justice Information System) Security Policy Standards are met.

Because 911 Director Aaron Ross had completed law enforcement training in Ohio, he was approved and sworn in to serve as county police chief -- effectively complying with the rule without having to make major departmental changes. Though he received magistrate approval, members of the force are generally appointed by the county judge-executive without fiscal court approval. He is so far the only member to be publicly announced.

At the last fiscal court meeting, Ranshaw expressed concern because more than one badge had been purchased. His motion to require fiscal court approval for county police officers was seconded by District 1 Magistrate Jason Turpen but was ultimately defeated by a vote of 3-2 with Wilson, Wheeldon and District 5 Magistrate Mike Strunk voting against the measure.

However, it was not so much the vote as Judge Kelley's comments which made Magistrate Ranshaw want to revisit the issue. On January 14, the judge claimed that he had purchased an additional badge to celebrate the inaugural nature of the implementing a county police force and intended to display it in a shadowbox.

"Quite frankly, I think you're being petty," Kelley said at the time.

Following Tuesday's meeting, Ranshaw said it was this remark he wanted to address with a public statement.

"I still hold firm that [Steve Kelley and Dan Price] shouldn't be carrying county police badges around when there are first responders -- police and fire department -- that work hard to get certified to be able to carry their badges," the magistrate said. "…My job is not to make the people in that front office happy. My job is to stand up for the taxpayers of this county, to take care of what I believe they would want to see out of our county government."

In regard to the new motion he wanted to make at the latest meeting Tuesday, Ranshaw explained that he had wanted to get court approval on a recent Fire Commission vote allowing local fire departments to seek $10,000 grants from excess funds toward personal protection equipment and other equipment they may need. He lamented having to wait until the next meeting to present the motion.

After this meeting, Judge Kelley also cited the events of last meeting as a reason for his recommendation to stick to the printed agenda. However, he said it wasn't because he was aware of any particular issue about to be addressed but rather that he simply wanted to maintain order.

"When we set our agenda, we try to stick to it as closely as possible," Kelley said. "After the last meeting, we had someone try to hijack the court meeting for personal and political reasons.…We have two weeks in between to address government issues with department heads, magistrates, and employees. Once our court agenda is set, we conduct the business of the county accordingly."

When asked later about the Fiscal Court operating in accordance with Robert's Rules, County Attorney Hatfield explained the court had not officially adopted them but instead operated under a more basic rules of parliamentary procedure. He did, however, acknowledge being incorrect in advising the court not to consider Ranshaw's amendment and said he had reached out to the magistrate to apologize.

"I had something else in mind, that you can't have two motions on the floor at the same time," Hatfield said. "Under the basic rules, you can in fact propose an amendment during the discussion phase of the original motion."

The attorney did note that while researching the issue after the meeting, he found that amendments are generally made to refine the original motion (or make it more specific) while an argument could be made that Ranshaw's motion to add to the agenda could have expanded Wheeldon's motion beyond it's original scope to keep to the printed agenda.

"At the end of the day, however, I should have let the court consider it," Hatfield opined, noting that Magistrate Ranshaw's proposed amendment would have needed a second and majority vote like any other motion.

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