Floyd County Attorney Keith Bartley has sued the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Service for ending its contract with him to collect child support payments in the Eastern Kentucky county.
In an 11-page lawsuit filed last Friday in Franklin Circuit Court, Bartley claimed the state’s action is unlawful and has “an immediate and significant effect on Floyd County’s families who rely on child support services.”
“It will undoubtedly result in limited or no support for families who need money to feed and clothe their children or require other services for an undetermined period of time,” his lawsuit said.
The Floyd County program serves about 3,100 clients.
A spokesman for the cabinet said officials have received the lawsuit and are reviewing it.
“We cannot address specific points at this time,” said spokesman Doug Hogan. “Carter County Attorney Brian Bayes will be assuming responsibility for child support enforcement in Floyd County.”
It is not clear how many counties might be receiving similar letters.
Bartley’s attorney, Masten Childers III of Lexington, said Estill County Attorney Rodney Davis has received a similar letter.
Davis said in a telephone interview that he does not have enough information from the state at this time to comment.
A hearing on Bartley’s suit and request for emergency injunctive relief has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 15 before Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd.
Bartley included in his suit the July 16 letter from Bryan Hubbard, commissioner of the cabinet’s department for income support, child support enforcement, that told Bartley he had 30 days’ notice of the state’s intent “to terminate its contract with him for the provision of child support enforcement services for Floyd County.”
“This termination is occurring for the convenience of the Commonwealth,” the letter added without elaboration.
Childers said Bartley has asked state officials repeatedly why the contract was being terminated “and they have refused to say anything else.”
The suit said Bartley has been county attorney in Floyd for 22 years and has never been opposed.
During his term, Bartley has continuously administered the child support services program with no major problem, the suit said. The work involves establishing and enforcing support orders, collecting and distributing child support payments, and referring parents to other social service programs.
In Bartley’s administration of the program, the suit said, he has collected in excess of $70 million for the children of Floyd County.
The suit said Bartley has performed his duties in accordance with the state contract. It said state law provides that the local county attorney “shall be considered the designee of the cabinet for purposes of administering the program of child support recovery within a county, subject to the option of the county attorney to decline such designation.”
Bartley is asking the court to declare the state’s directive improper and permanently enjoin the state from terminating his contract to administer the program.
“If the commonwealth is permitted to violate the law by merely writing a letter, and for no good cause shown, nothing prohibits them from violating other statutes by executive decree,” Bartley’s suit said.