Fayette County has not had a judge-executive since November, and if a replacement isn’t named soon, some rural road-paving projects and property tax appeals could be in jeopardy, one county official said.
Tom Dupree Jr. resigned from the position in mid-November after serving less than seven months. Gov. Matt Bevin appointed Dupree, a radio host and financial planner, to the job in February to replace John Roberts, who died in January 2017.
Roberts and his predecessor, Jon Larson, had pledged to try to abolish the position if elected. Unlike most counties, where the judge-executive is the top government official, Lexington and Fayette County have a merged government. Much of a judge-executive’s traditional duties are handled by the mayor.
Attempts to pass a constitutional amendment to abolish the position have repeatedly failed in the state legislature, because a constitutional amendment requires a statewide vote.
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Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins Jr. said the Fayette County judge-executive has a few key roles that can’t be ignored over an extended period.
For example, state law requires the judge-executive to help determine and approve where state money designated for rural Fayette County roads is spent.
“But more importantly, the judge-executive appoints the members of the board of tax appeals,” Blevins said.
That board hears cases when someone wants to challenge their property tax assessment. The members, which have to come from certain areas of expertise, are typically selected and sworn in by early spring, Blevins said.
The judge-executive also appoints replacements for vacancies in some countywide offices, including the county clerk, Blevins said.
Dupree said he resigned because he hoped his limited job duties could be moved to other positions. Dupree said he never drew a salary from the job.
“It just seemed like it was a waste and that the duties could be better handled by other people,” Dupree said. “I let the governor’s office know what I was doing and was hoping that they could figure out some way so they could distribute the duties to other people.”
In addition to not having a judge-executive, one of three county commissioners resigned last year. Bevin has not yet named a replacement. Blevins said Dupree had sent an email to the governor’s office last spring recommending someone to replace the commissioner.
There is no requirement for Bevin to fill the positions within a certain period.
Woody Maglinger, a spokesman for Bevin, said the governor has been made aware of the vacancy and is making a decision on the position.
The office of judge-executive costs taxpayers approximately $21,000 a year. Of that, less than $9,000 goes toward the judge-executive’s salary. Four people have filed to run for judge-executive this year. They include Don Blevins Sr., Blevins’ father and a former county clerk; Larson, the former judge-executive; Eugene L. Kiser; and James Mark Sizemore.
The winner of that race won’t be sworn into office until January 2019.