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Court Warned Of Possible Bailiff Shortage

The Harrodsburg Herald/Robert Moore
Bailiff Jim Holiday watches the monitors at Mercer County Judicial Center. Officials are worried about a possible shortage of court security officers.

Robert Moore

Herald Staff

The Mercer County Fiscal Court were warned about a possible shortage in bailiffs at the judicial complex unless action is taken.

Garland Christopher asked for a $30,000 increase in the county budget for bailiff salaries.

Christopher said bailiffs last about 3 years, which he attributed to the low pay. The Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts pays the first $9 an hour. He said Boyle County pays $10 while Anderson County pays $11. Only Mercer County just pays the $9 an hour.

“It’s just becoming increasingly, increasingly difficult,” Christopher said. He said it was hard for people of his age group. Most of the bailiffs, who are retirees, work part-time—99 hours a month.

“It just creates a real hardship,” he said.

In addition, other counties pay benefits and he said they have lower turnover. Christopher said the judicial complex is allotted 12 bailiffs and they are currently down to seven. He said he believes they are about to lose two more. Christopher said they cannot open the court with just five bailiffs.

He said he was willing to take a pay cut to $12 an hour to work 40 hours a week. He currently works two and a half days a week.

“Somebody needs to be there every day,” he said.

Recruiting new bailiffs—also known as court security officers—has been made difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic. Christopher said the Department of Criminal Justice Training  is just reopening and it’s an 8-12 week process.

County Attorney Ted Dean said the only reason the situation hasn’t boiled over yet is because courts are still doing teleconferencing.

If there are not enough bailiffs, Dean said the judge will order deputies  from the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office to serve as bailiffs.

“The sheriff is obligated to provide security up there,” Dean said.

“My plate’s full,” said Sheriff Ernie Kelty.

He said without Christopher and his he would have to split his office’s resources.

“I don’t have to worry about the courthouse because Garland’s got it,” Kelty said. “What these guys do is very important.”

Judge-Executive Milward Dedman said the magistrates would discuss the proposal and get back to them.

After a discussion, the magistrates agreed to allow the animal control officer to issue tickets.

Dean said the officer, Kurt Baker, is being called out to same place two or three times. Dean said people were not cooperating.

“Clearly we have to rachet it up,” he said.

Dean said county ordinance allows Baker to issue citations. He said he prefers that Baker issue e-citations, which would be filled out by Dean’s staff and could be served by deputies from the sheriff’s office or other law enforcement officers.

“They’re just wanting more—a little more teeth in it,” Dean said. “We need that mechanism to hold people accountable.”

In other business, the Mercer County Fiscal Court:

• Approved voiding a $100 general fund check made payable to Kentucky Magistrates and Commissioners Association.

• Approved renumbering two ordinances with the same number. The ordinance relating to the annual budget for fiscal year 2020-2021 will be renumbered 2020-4 A while the budget amendment for unbudgeted receipts from the COVID-19 relief fund C075 will be renumbered to 2020-4 B.

• Approved using Capstone Administrators LLC for 2020 ACA 1094/1095-C reporting at $18 per employee. They also approved an electronic fee transmittal fee to IRS for $1,000.

• Approved using Tri-K Landfill for dead animal removal. Dedman said they are not advertising the service’s return they’ve worked out the kinks

“I’d like to take a couple of weeks or so to see how it works,” he said.

• Approved jail expenses. The magistrates voted to pay Boyle County Fiscal Court $39,272.54, $3,000 for jail administrative fees for joint jail operating expenses and $11,425.42 for revenue payments. The latter are pass-through funds for the jail Mercer County has received from the state.

The next meeting of the Mercer County Fiscal Court will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 8, at 10 a.m.

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