The Letcher County Grand Jury says it lacks evidence to recommend criminal action against a candidate whose illegally posted sign caused
poll worker to become seriously injured on Election Day, but has called on the Letcher County Board of Elections to review the matter further.
Each election year, the grand jury is required by law to review the results and reports generated for the May primary and November general elections. While the jury said it found no evidence of criminal conduct in either election, it has directed the Board of Elections to address a “precinct sheriff ’s report” which says the Eolia voting precinct could not open until 6:15 a.m. because the precinct clerk received “serious facial wounds” requiring medical treatment. The grand jury said the clerk was injured when she assisted another election official in removing a large metal campaign sign set within 300 feet of the polling place in violation of the prohibition of electioneering.
The grand jury says, “Although the precinct sheriff specifically recommended that the offending candidate be fined, such remedy is not within the authority of the grand jury as any such fine would require a criminal prosecution by the Letcher County Attorney. In this instance, the grand jury specifically finds no evidence of criminal conduct because there was no evidence that the off ending candidate was ever ‘duly notified’ of the provisions of the electioneering statute and thus given notice to remove the off ending large sign, ‘by any precinct election offi cial, county clerk, deputy county clerk, or other law enforcement official’ as required by the statute.”
The grand jury ordered the Board of Elections to devise a plan to ensure such an incident does not occur again.
The election findings were included in the grand jury’s “final report” released Dec. 9. The grand jury was impaneled April 30, and had been in session 20 days during the last seven months. It, along with the previous grand jury which completed its term in March, returned 345 felony indictments.
The jury’s final report also includes findings and recommendations resulting from an inspection of the Letcher County Courthouse, including the Letcher County Jail, on Dec. 2. The report says:
• The heating and cooling system in the grand jury room does not function properly, leaving the room too warm or too cold. The report said, “Had it not been for (courthouse janitor) Ann Adams’s efforts to keep the temperature properly regulated, there is no doubt that there would have been days in which the extreme temperatures would have made our daylong sessions unbearable.”
The grand jury also stated that the problem with the heating and cooling system has been reported numerous times by previous grand juries, and it continues despite efforts by the county to repair the system.
The room is used on an almost daily basis by petit jurors, the Domestic Relations commissioner, and attorneys conducting depositions as well as the grand jury, and the recommendation by the grand jury is that the Letcher Fiscal Court, which has charge of the courthouse, install a window unit air conditioner and make space heaters available.
• The Letcher Circuit Courtroom has numerous stains on the carpet and ceiling tiles, and is used on an almost daily basis. The report says, “The overall condition and appearance of the courtroom are vital to the county government’s initial impression upon the many visitors to the courtroom. To the knowledge of those asked, we were informed that the carpet has not been replaced since its installation in the early 1990’s.”
The grand jury recommends replacing the carpet and the ceiling tiles, and painting the circuit courtroom as well as the entire courthouse.
• The grand jury also found damaged ceiling tiles and stained carpet in the office of Circuit Judge Sam Wright. It recommends repairing or replacing the tiles and the carpet, and that the office be painted.
• Numerous leaks and stains on the ceiling tiles were found in the office of Circuit Court Clerk Margaret Nichols. The recommendation is that the source of the leaks be found and repaired, the tiles replaced, and the office painted.
• The public restrooms were found to be well maintained, odor free, and with sufficient toilet paper and hand towels.
• The grand jury commended the courthouse custodial staff for keeping the heavily traveled hallways mopped and waxed.
Cracked floor tiles noted in previous grand jury reports have not been repaired. The grand jury said, “Such visible items in need of repair cannot make a positive impression upon the many visitors to the courthouse and can only undermine the hard work and commendable efforts of the custodial staff to keep the courthouse clean at all times.”
• The Letcher District Courtroom, and in particular the jury box area, is “in great need of fresh paint.”
• The District Judge’s office “appeared to be in satisfactory condition.”
• “Although a bit cramped for space, overall the District Court Jury and Conference Room appeared to be in good condition.”
• The office suite of the county judge/executive’s office was found “in overall good condition beyond the standing recommendation for the entire courthouse that a fresh coat of paint be applied to the offices.”
• The Letcher County Sanitation Department office was also found to be in good condition, but the grand jury says the outside windows of the office appear in need of washing.
• The grand jury says the Letcher County Property Valuation Administrator’s office “appears to be extremely limited in working area and space.” The report also says the restroom in the office is in poor condition when compared to the public restrooms and the restrooms in other offices.
• The grand jury found the visitor area of the county jail to be very messy, and recommends the area be monitored and cleaned.
The report also recommends that the phone system be upgraded to allow proper monitoring of phone calls and to take advantage of the indexing system available with upgraded software.
The grand jury says the jail is in need of paint, cleaning of the heating and cooling vents, new carpet in the booking area, laminating the drawers in the officer’s booking area, and replacing ceiling tiles.
The report also states that the number of female inmates appears to exceed the jail’s intended maximum capacity.
Mold was found in the work release entrance, which also needs a coat of paint and cleaning. What appeared to be mold was also observed near the exit sign next to the kitchen area, and the grand jury recommends the source of the mold be found and the problem eliminated.
On the day of the inspection, the toilet in Cell 137 was out of order. The report directs the next grand jury to confirm that the toilet has been repaired.