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Thrasher offers to settle action against Watts

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Petitioner wants county job or new name for road

By Randy Patrick

Donald Thrasher claims Nelson County Judge-Executive Dean Watts overstepped his bounds by renaming sections of the former Louisville Road without the county magistrates’ consent and has taken Watts to court, seeking to have him removed from office for official misconduct.

However, in an email to Watts obtained by The Kentucky Standard through an open records request, Thrasher offered to drop the suit and bring no further action if Watts would either rename the part of the former Louisville Road he lives on or appoint him to a county office, albeit with no compensation.

Specifically, he wants Watts to rename Salt River Road, where he lives, either Bardstown Road or General Nelson Road.

If Watts won’t do that, he said, Watts could appoint him 4th District constable, with limited duties and a lower bond, name him a magistrate research adviser to help the county’s legislators as a sort of staff assistant, or make him deputy county judge-executive.

If appointed deputy judge-executive, Thrasher would agree to waive the “reasonable compensation” the job is supposed to pay. The constable and surveyor’s offices don’t include salaries. The advisory position is one that would have to be created, but Thrasher said he couldn’t care less about “some paying job” with the county. That isn’t his motivation, he said.

“It is my fervent hope that I can do something positive and beneficial,” Thrasher said in his settlement proposal sent to Watts and County Attorney Matthew Hite on Dec. 2. “While being a watchdog of the county I live in seems good on its face, I would rather go after some for profit corporation that is taking advantage of the people. I don’t see a lot of upside of litigating people and institutions who more than likely are in government for the right reasons.”

However, Thrasher warned, if the county judge’s stance in the matter is to be “dogmatic and unmovable towards resolve, my fight here would be justified and protracted.”

Thrasher said he has “no ill will” toward Watts, whom he described as “a hard man for me to dislike,” but others do dislike him and have contacted him, he added. However, he is “not quite ready” to jump on their bandwagon, he said.

Thrasher said that depending on what happens in coming weeks, he will either run against 4th District Magistrate Jeff Lear for his seat or run for the open position for 4th District constable.

He explained that if Lear fails to get the Fiscal Court to pass an ordinance that he drafted for Lear, he will run against him for re-election.

The ordinance he referred to was one Lear presented in Fiscal Court Tuesday to require that in the future, county road signs cannot be erected without a public hearing and a vote by the Fiscal Court to expend the funds. Also, if half the property owners on a county road present a petition to the Fiscal Court agreeing on a name for a county road, the magistrates must direct the Road Department to erect signs with the agreed-upon name. And if the county judge names the road some other name, then the magistrates must withhold the money for the signs.

Lear told the Fiscal Court Tuesday he thinks the proposed ordinance “has some merit.”

Watts said the ordinance, if approved, could not apply to the parts of Louisville Road he renamed when the new Louisville Road opened, to avoid confusion to dispatchers, first responders and others.

Hite said that without researching it, he doesn’t know whether it can be made retroactive.

Thrasher on Nov. 29 filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, a court order directing a public official to perform his duty. He wants a circuit judge to order Watts to rescind his executive order re-naming the old road sections, one of which is his road, North Salt River Road, which unlike the others Watts named, remains a state-owned road. The other sections of the former Louisville Road were turned over to the county for maintenance and are now county roads.

In his petition, Thrasher said Watts acted improperly in setting the bond for constables at $1 million to discourage people from running for what many say is an antiquated office, and then failing to appoint someone to fill the vacancies when no one did run.

Similarly, he said, Watts should have appointed a county surveyor when no one ran for that position.

In discussing the petition with a reporter for the Standard, Thrasher has said he wants Watts “impeached” for official misconduct, but he would drop his demands if the county judge accepts any one of his proposals.

Watts would not comment on the settlement offer because of the pending litigation.

Hite said Fiscal Court cannot remove the county judge for misconduct.