Fayette deputy constable suspended over charges of promoting prostitution

Move comes 3 days after arrest

kward1@herald-leader.com, jkegley@herald-leader.comJanuary 10, 2012 

Dannie R. Pendygraft faces charges related to prostitution.

A Fayette County deputy constable accused of accepting sexual favors from prostitutes as rent payment was suspended Monday afternoon.

Dannie R. Pendygraft, 58, was arrested Friday on charges of promoting prostitution of two or more prostitutes, permitting prostitution and first-degree official misconduct.

Pendygraft declined to comment Monday, saying his attorney had advised him not to speak to the media about the case or his job responsibilities.

Joyce Clater, Fayette County's elected constable for the First District, said she decided to suspend Pendygraft "until this is all over." If he is convicted, she said, he would be removed permanently.

On Saturday, Clater said she did not intend to suspend Pendygraft, but she said Monday that she decided it would be "better for him and for me" to suspend him.

"People may not respect him like they did before," she said Monday.

Clater said she appointed Pendygraft as a deputy constable about two years ago.

Fayette County has three elected constables who serve papers notifying people to appear in court. They may appoint deputies to help with the job.

Police say in court documents that Pendygraft traded rent for sexual favors from two prostitutes who lived at his property at 737 Maple Avenue and a woman who lived in an apartment at 567 North Upper Street.

The prostitutes told police that when they got behind in their rent, Pendygraft gave them extra time to pay if they would perform oral sex on him, according to criminal complaints filed in Fayette District Court.

He also encouraged them to "turn tricks" to earn rent money, the documents stated. He evicted one of the women in August, court records show.

The woman who lived in the Upper Street apartment told police on Dec. 22 that he gave her "the choice of having sex with him or be evicted."

Over a two-year period, that woman "had a multitude of sexual encounters with Mr. Pendygraft in order to not be evicted from her apartment," the criminal complaint stated.

All three women said Pendygraft always had his constable badge and holstered gun visible.

Pendygraft is scheduled to be arraigned at 1 p.m. Wednesday in Fayette District Court.

Before Clater announced that Pendygraft had been suspended, it was unclear who else had the authority to alter or end a deputy constable's employment.

A city official and Fayette County Judge-Executive Jon Larson both said they thought ultimate supervision of Pendygraft fell to Clater, who appointed him.

The Department of Public Safety's only authority over a constable comes during the background check and approval process, said Public Safety Commissioner Clay Mason. Once a deputy is nominated by an elected constable, the application comes to Mason for approval. The deputy is then sworn in by the county judge-executive.

Mason said he had approved several applications in his first year in office and denied several others. He said he is inclined to deny the job if a person doesn't follow the application's rules or has an abundance of run-ins with law enforcement, including traffic tickets.

Pendygraft was hired during a previous administration, Mason said. He didn't know the details of his background check.

A review of court records showed Pendygraft has faced three traffic charges in Lexington but never a misdemeanor or felony crime until his recent arrest.

Larson said that he might be authorized to void the appointment of a deputy but that he wouldn't be inclined to do so unless the city revoked its approval.

He said the constable's office provides a "fairly valuable service" because it serves court papers at little to no taxpayer expense.

Attorneys pay the constable's office to deliver the papers, he said. The fee is usually $40 for each service, which is divided evenly between the office and the deputy constable who serves the papers.

The papers handled by the constable's office usually are summonses related to civil cases, Larson said. Criminal warrants are handled by police or the Fayette County sheriff's office.

Deputy constables are given badges and guns, which represent the authority of their position, but they do not have arrest powers, Larson said.

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