Commissioner Misti Drew Judge Mike Miller

Commissioner Misti Drew, above left, Judge Mike Miller, at right.

Court seeks investigator

(Filed June 18, 20130) Benton- Marshall County commissioners agreed to seek an attorney to investigate a charge by Commissioner Misti Drew that county separation of employment records signed by Marshall County Judge Executive Mike Miller do not agree with information the court received prior to Goldenrod Kirk leaving his position as a part-time dogcatcher for the county. They made the decision to seek an investigator in a special called meeting last Friday afternoon.

Commissioner Drew said in a prepared statement the court was told that Kirk was retiring and a retirement party was held for him but she learned later that he filed for unemployment benefits and that Judge Miller had signed Kirk’s termination of employment document that reflected instead that Kirk was being “layoff/terminated” and that he started receiving benefits on February 3, 2013 the day before the event was held for him by the county. Commissioner Drew also called for Judge Miller to recuse himself from the proceedings.

Judge Miller said in the meeting that he did sign the document and he also countered Commissioner Drew’s description of the event held for Kirk by saying it was an appreciation event for Kirk’s years of service and that Kirk did not receive retirement benefits from the county. According to Judge Miller’s previous statements Kirk worked with out benefits for approximately 30 hours per week for 30 years.

Commissioner Drew has also filed an ethics complaint against Judge Miller with the State Attorney General that alleges he disclosed information from a closed meeting of the court held Tuesday morning, June 11, 2013. She said he provided information to Loyd Ford, publisher of The Lake News that appeared on and to Venita Fritz, publisher of the Benton Tribune Courier.

Judge Miller said in the meeting the information he shared with Ford took place in a conversation the week prior to the fiscal court meeting. Ford’s story about the filing for unemployment benefits by Kirk was posted after the court met. That story contained information about Kirk and other unnamed former employees of the animal shelter who received unemployment benefits. Commissioner Drew characterized information in the story as inaccurate and misleading.
(Note: The story is still available on click here to read the story.)

Judge Miller said if I said anything I shouldn’t have said or I he had done anything he shouldn’t have done I apologize to the court and to the community. He also said in all the years he had served as Marshall County Judge/Executive he had never had an ethics complaint filed against him.

After the court voted to seek an outside an independent attorney to conduct the investigation they agreed to a suggestion from County Attorney Jeff Edwards to allow him to submit the names of three or four attorneys for them to consider to investigate the unemployment issue.