Kentucky court official resigns after investigation of 'inappropriate workplace activities'

jcheves@herald-leader.comJune 26, 2014 

The facilities manager for Kentucky's court system has resigned following an internal investigation into "inappropriate workplace activities," court officials said this week. However, the former manager said he did nothing wrong and that he voluntarily left for a job in the private sector.

Vance H. Mitchell, who earned $67,459 a year with the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts, resigned effective May 20. Mitchell oversaw construction and maintenance of local judicial centers.

Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton Jr. and AOC director Laurie Dudgeon declined to explain much about Mitchell's departure, other than to say it also involved two lower-level AOC employees — an unnamed man and woman. Both of them left the agency about the same time as Mitchell, Dudgeon said.

"It was personnel matters of a personal nature," Dudgeon said. "We had reason to believe they were involved in a relationship of some sort."

"I was informed that Vance and the two others — that the legal department was looking into inappropriate workplace activities," Minton said. "Vance was given the opportunity to resign, and he did, based on what the investigation showed. ... It's a regrettable situation."

The officials declined to say whether the alleged activities happened on state time or inside the AOC offices in Frankfort or other state-owned properties. The AOC, which judges have exempted from Kentucky's Open Records Act, refused to release its internal investigative report, calling it "confidential."

On Thursday, Mitchell said he did nothing wrong at the AOC and that he voluntarily quit to pursue other opportunities in the private sector. He has since taken a job as project manager with Trace Creek Construction in Vanceburg, which was involved in building judicial centers for the AOC over the past decade with a cumulative price of more than $30 million, in Bracken, Fleming and Robertson counties.

"They (AOC officials) questioned me about the relationship, and there was nothing tying me to the situation. That was the end of the story as far as I was concerned," Mitchell said. "I think it was a vicious — nothing more than a vicious workplace rumor that reared its head."

"I've had an impeccable career with nothing but perfect evaluations," he said.

Supreme Court Justice Mary Noble of Lexington said she knew that Mitchell resigned but was not told anything else. Noble praised Mitchell for his performance last year when the Fayette Circuit Court building flooded and local judicial services had to be moved around downtown Lexington.

"I will say this about Vance: He's certainly competent," Noble said.

John Cheves: (859) 231-3266. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com

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