A Fayette County constable candidate who won the Democratic primary on May 22 and has no Republican opponent in the November general election served several years in prison for the sexual abuse of a 14-year-old.
Wade McNabb, who beat incumbent Jeff Jacob and Liekiem Broyles on May 22, was convicted, but his case was overturned by the state Court of Appeals. The charge was expunged and now McNabb will serve as one of three constables, who serve civil summons for attorneys for a fee.
McNabb was sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted in Lewis County of third-degree sodomy involving a 14-year-old boy, the Herald-Leader reported in 2014. McNabb, a paralegal who is in law school, ran unsuccessfully for constable in 2014.
The Kentucky Court of Appeals overturned McNabb's conviction in 2010, saying he was not given effective legal counsel. He was released from prison after serving a little more than five years.
According to Kentucky Court of Appeals records, the prosecutor declined to prosecute the case again and the charges were dismissed. The original charge against McNabb stemmed from when he was a youth minister at a Lewis County church, according to the 2014 Herald-Leader article.
McNabb's now expunged criminal history is referenced in a separate Court of Appeals 2015 decision regarding McNabb's teaching certificate. The Court of Appeals ruled in 2015 that the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board should not have revoked McNabb's teaching license when it did because the criminal charges against him were dropped.
McNabb successfully petitioned the courts to have the charge expunged in 2011, according to the 2015 court of appeals decision.
An email to McNabb and a voice message left at his work were not immediately returned.
In a 2014 interview, McNabb said he was innocent.
"I stand on the premise that I was cleared of everything that I was accused of; everything was dismissed against me," he said. "When your record is expunged, it's as if it never happened."
McNabb also said in 2014 that he talked to people about the case when campaigning door to door.
"The overwhelming majority have been supportive and seem to feel that the court finally saw the discrepancies in the case," he said.
McNabb's all-but-guaranteed-election in November has re-ignited debate about the role and lack of training for constables in Kentucky. Attempts at the state legislature to do away with the county office have failed. It would take a constitutional amendment, which would require approval of three-fifth majorities of state House and state Senate, to put the issue on the ballot for voters to decide.
Fayette County Sheriff Kathy Witt said constables are not required to go through the same training as sheriff's deputies and police officers, can carry firearms and have the authority to arrest people but have no oversight. Many think Fayette County constables report to her. They don't.
"It's not just dangerous for the public," Witt said. "It's dangerous for them, too. They are serving civil summons. When they knock on someone's door, they do not know that the person on the other side of the door could have an outstanding warrant for a robbery and see what looks like a police officer on the other side of that door."
Witt has pushed the city to do what Louisville did several years ago — limit the number of deputy constables and step up oversight.
The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council held a meeting in 2016 about what could be done to step up oversight of constables. But Councilman Kevin Stinnett, who put the issue into a council committee, said the city backed off because it was waiting to see if a bill that would give counties the authority to do away with the office of constable passed the state General Assembly.
It didn't pass, but the council then had moved on to other issues, Stinnett said.
Some constables have said the push to get rid of them is driven by sheriffs who want to take over constables' duties so they can collect the $40 constables earn each time they serve a civil summons.
But Witt said her opposition to the office is not about money. It's about safety.
Moreover, constables get to pocket that $40. Witt turns over 25 percent of the fees she collects from serving summons back to the general fund or the city's coffers. Constables don't do that. Also, she is audited. Constables are not.
"What I want is for our community to be the safest it can be and to have trained law enforcement serving them," Witt said. "We are starting to see more and more issues with constables. The office has outlived its usefulness."
Constables who have run afoul of the law over the past decade include:
- Former Laurel County Constable Bobby Joe Smith, who was convicted of reckless homicide after fatally shooting an unarmed man at a convenience store while serving a warrant in 2017.
- Former Jefferson County Constable David Whitlock shot a suspected shoplifter in a Walmart parking lot in 2011. Whitlock eventually stepped down from the position and agreed not to work in law enforcement again. But Whitlock also successfully sued Jefferson County government for failing to pay him back pay.
- In 2012, former Fayette County Deputy Constable Dannie Ray Pendygraft was sentenced to three years' probation for promoting prostitution, a felony, and official misconduct. Pendygraft was accused of asking sexual favors from a tenant in one of his boarding houses. Pendygraft served a weekend sentence.
- Former Franklin County Constable Thomas Banta was indicted in 2016 on charges he ran a prostitution ring out of his private security company, among other charges.
Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins Jr. said his office checks if a candidate fills out paperwork correctly. It does not run criminal background checks on constables or other candidates. Even if it did, McNabb's charge has been expunged.
"If someone wants to challenge the bona fides of a candidate, they can file an action in Fayette Circuit Court," Blevins said.