Former Cynthiana mayor mired in odd legal battle

Former mayor of Cynthiana, Jim Brown. Photo Provided
Former mayor of Cynthiana, Jim Brown. Photo Provided

Before he had a stroke in late 2008, Jim Brown was the mayor of Cynthiana and a hands-on businessman who compiled personal and business assets of approximately $115 million, including an ambulance service, a nursing home, a restaurant and a hotel.

Now, Brown's well-being and financial affairs are at the mercy of a judge, who this summer ordered him taken from the home he shared with his wife following an employee's allegations that the former mayor was being mistreated, according to court documents.

Brown, who didn't want to leave his home, was transported by his own ambulance service and placed in Cynthiana's Grand Haven Nursing Home, which he also owns. Brown's wife, Kay Brown, was ordered not to have any contact with him and was jailed briefly without bail for not appearing at a hearing regarding her husband.

Kay Brown recently filed lawsuits in Jim Brown's native Magoffin County and in Johnson County, where the couple moved after the stroke, against her husband's temporary court-appointed guardian, Cynthiana attorney Edwin M. Culbertson.

The complaints describe a battle that Kay Brown has been fighting since June, when William Probus, a special judge in Harrison District Court, placed Jim Brown in a nursing home.

Actions taken in Kentucky district courts regarding competency issues are confidential. But in the lawsuits that Kay Brown filed, she included Harrison District Court documents that shed light on some of Probus' decisions.

Kim Underwood, an EMT for Brown Ambulance Service, wrote in a statement that was attached to the lawsuit that Jim Brown did not want to leave his wife when the ambulance came for him.

"Jim said, 'I own Grand Haven. I don't want to live there. I don't belong there. I belong in my home in Paintsville with my wife and grandchildren. I'm going to miss my grandchild's birthday tomorrow,' " Underwood's statement said.

Court documents also include an undated, handwritten letter in which Jim Brown, who resigned his post as Cynthiana mayor after his stroke, says he wants to reassume responsibility for his own affairs.

"Since I am once again my old self, I have asked you to show the court that I no longer need someone else to handle my business affairs," the letter said.

Former Gov. Paul Patton confirmed on Tuesday that he also had written a letter to the court about Jim Brown. Patton recalled that his letter indicated that he thought Jim Brown was "well cared for" by Kay Brown.

On Aug. 18, about a week after filing a lawsuit in Johnson Circuit Court, Kay Brown asked a judge to dismiss that action. She then filed a similar complaint in Magoffin County on Aug. 22 asking for $20 million in punitive damages.

On Wednesday, Kay Brown's attorney, John W. Kirk, said he and Culbertson's attorney, Mike Casey, were going to enter an agreed order asking that the lawsuit be dismissed. "There were a number of misunderstandings," Kirk said. "Two good people have worked everything out."

He declined to elaborate further. Culbertson declined to comment, but Casey said Monday that Culbertson "vehemently denies that he did anything wrong."

"He's acted in the best interest of his ward and done so appropriately," Casey said.

The lawsuit said the judge denied Kay Brown contact with her husband after an employee who worked as Jim Brown's caretaker at their Paintsville home alleged mistreatment.

The judge allowed the employee to accompany Brown in the ambulance to the nursing home.

Kay Brown's lawsuit alleges that the employee lied about the mistreatment and that Culbertson should have known that. The employee was later jailed on immigration charges, according to court documents included in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also alleges that Jim Brown's businesses have suffered under the guardianship.

According to the lawsuits, Jim Brown has personal and business assets totaling about $115 million. In addition to the ambulance service and nursing home, the lawsuit said Jim Brown owns a Lee's Famous Recipe restaurant and The Ramada Inn at Paintsville.

In June 2011, when Probus ordered that Kay Brown have no contact with her husband, he also ordered her arrested and held without bail for failing to appear at a hearing for her husband that she had been subpoenaed to attend, according to court documents.

Brown contends in her lawsuit that she was "confined" at the hospital on the day of the hearing being treated for severe chest pains and that her lawyer's office notified the court clerk.

Despite the judge's order, Brown was released from the Big Sandy Regional Detention Center the same day she was arrested, the lawsuit said.