2016-01-27 / Front Page

Magistrate expense accounts total $600 instead of $300 that was first indicated

The reinstatement of expense accounts for magistrates approved last week by the Letcher Fiscal court total $600 per month rather than the $300 per month that was indicated during the court’s January 18 meeting, The Mountain Eagle has learned.

The court voted 3-2 last week to reinstate the two expense accounts which magistrates had voted to no longer accept late last year. Voting against the separate $300 accounts were Magistrates Wayne Fleming and Terry Adams. Magistrates Keith Adams, Woody Holbrook and Bobby Howard voted in favor of the reinstatements. County Judge/Executive Jim Ward abstained from casting a vote that could have stopped pay increase.

This week, the Eagle learned that only one of the two $300 expense accounts appears to be legal.

According to state law (KRS 64.530), fiscal courts may, in addition to annual salaries, pay magistrates “an additional amount of up to $300 per month as an expense allowance for serving on committees of the fiscal court.”

State law does not authorize the second expense account, which magistrates said covers their district travel costs “up to $300 a month.”

While the second $300 a month expense account appears to be illegal, state law also regulates that annual pay and expense accounts for fiscal court members can only be changed every four years — before the primary election in which new court members might be chosen. This portion of the law indicates that it was illegal for the magistrates to have voted last fall to discontinue the “serving on committees” allowance, meaning the magistrates are still entitled to that single $300 monthly account.

Letcher County Attorney Jamie Hatton said this week that no court member asked him in advance about the legality of discontinuing or reinstating either of the two expense accounts.

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