Kentucky

Fired court employee accuses justice of nepotism

A fired court system employee has filed a lawsuit accusing Justice Will T. Scott of unethically intervening to get his oldest son a promotion.

The former Administrative Office of the Courts employee, Ruth Ann Combs, claims she was fired in January so that Andrew H. Scott could have her job.

The lawsuit, filed against the AOC and "unknown agents" who participated in her firing, comes on the heels of an internal administrative appeal that found that Combs' claim had "no merit whatsoever."

The suit was filed Aug. 27 in Perry Circuit Court.

Scott, of Pikeville, decried the lawsuit as politically motivated. He noted that Combs' lawyer is Ned Pillersdorf, who is married to former Justice Janet Stumbo.

Scott defeated Stumbo for re-election in 2004. Stumbo is now a Court of Appeals judge.

Scott said Pillersdorf, who managed Stumbo's campaign, is attempting to smear him in anticipation of a 2012 rematch.

"I know I have to put up with this, but your children shouldn't have to," Scott said. "That's life, and I guess families of people who are elected have to deal with it. But it's hard on the parents to see a child used as a vehicle to attack a parent."

AOC Director Jason Nemes referred questions to an attorney representing the AOC in the case, Susan C. Sears.

"AOC strongly stands by the positions it's taken with Ms. Combs, both as an employer and in the internal grievance proceedings that played out," Sears said.

Pillersdorf declined to comment.

Combs was a pre-trial officer in Perry County from May 1984 to January 2008.

Pre-trial officers are court employees responsible for interviewing defendants in jail and providing information to judges so they can set bond. They also monitor compliance for defendants on pre-trial release.

Andrew Scott was hired as a pre-trial officer on Aug. 16, 2005, according to AOC records.

The lawsuit claims that Will T. Scott spoke to Nemes to get Andrew Scott a promotion. The alleged source for that claim is pre-trial services employee Jim Marcum, who allegedly told an AOC investigator that Andrew Scott had acknowledged receiving favorable treatment because of his father.

But in May, Marcum told the Herald-Leader that he did not make such a statement. He repeated the denial in an administrative hearing.

The lawsuit contends that the AOC has a copy of the interview.

The alleged comments were made in reference to a promotion of Andrew Scott in Magoffin County. AOC records show that he lost that promotion in May 2007.

However, he was promoted again, this time in Combs' office in in Perry County, in December.

Combs, who was demoted before Scott's promotion in December, was then fired Jan. 22.

Combs appealed the firing, and a three-person tribunal recommended reinstating her employment because the evidence against her was not compiled until after her firing. The tribunal, however, rejected Combs' claim of favoritism

Former Justice James E. Keller, who was appointed by Nemes to make the final call in the appeal, reversed the tribunal's decision to give Combs her job back.

Combs was fired on allegations that she falsified drug tests and was seen eating with somebody she had tried to get out of jail.

Combs denies the allegations, and a judge testified in an administrative hearing that she had been a good employee.

Combs' attorneys have said that she took a demotion because she felt she was being harassed by supervisors. She was planning on retiring in May.

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