Coroner fined $1,000 for ethics violation

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By Randy Patrick

The Nelson County Fiscal Court on Thursday decided to fine Coroner Rayfield Houghlin $1,000 for violating the county's ethics ordinance by hiring his daughter, Rebecca, as his deputy.
The vote was 4-1, with Magistrate Jeff Lear voting no because he thought the court should have accepted the entire recommendation of the Joint Ethics Board.
In addition to the $1,000 fine, the board had recommended that the Fiscal Courtr also require Houghlin to reimburse the county for Rebecca Houghlin's $300-a-month salary and her annual training expenses.
County Judge-Executive Dean Watts reasoned that Houghlin hadn't benefited from his daughter's salary and that the county had gotten the benefit of her training.
Rebecca Houghlin is no longer employed as deputy coroner.
The question was raised by Lear of whether she ever had been a deputy because county officials have been able to find no evidence that she was ever sworn in.
She was also hired a few days before she reached the mandatory age of 21. The Ethics Board referred that matter to the County Attorney's Office for prosecution, and County Attorney Matthew Hite turned it over to the Office of the Attorney General.
The Ethics Board also formally reprimanded Houghlin.
Houghlin has said he didn't know about the nepotism prohibition in the ethics ordinance.