CORRECTION: Boyle County Jailer Brian Wofford’s last name was misspelled in this week’s print edition.
While officials from Mercer and Boyle County appear to be trying to work together in managing the Boyle County Detention Center, Boyle Jailer Brian Wofford did not attend the most recent meeting of the joint jail committee.
Last month, Boyle County Jailer Brian Wofford told the Danville Advocate-Messenger that the interlocal agreement violates Kentucky law and that he is no longer involved with the joint jail committee, which has run the jail for over two decades.
Since then, Boyle and Mercer County officials have held several meetings to discuss the interlocal agreement. On Aug. 14, the Danville Advocate reported that Boyle officials while may want to renegotiate some parts of the agreement, they said it is still binding.
“The joint jail committee still exists. I want to make that perfectly clear,” Boyle Magistrate Jamey Gay was quoted as saying. “If the jailer does not want to participate in that and he feels like there’s some constitutional reason he can’t, then that’s his decision.”
The joint jail meeting was held last Friday at the Mercer County Fiscal Courthouse. While representatives from Mercer and Boyle County were there, Wofford was not.
The jailer sent an email to Boyle County Chris Herron which was passed around to the other board members.
In the email, Wofford noted that Ted Dean had argued in a budget workshop against the need to establish mental health services, which Wofford said are mandated by state law.
“Had Mr. Dean succeeded in his attempt to have the mental health services removed from the joint jail budget, this may have been sufficient grounds to charge me with misfeasance in office.”
Under the interlocal agreement, Boyle has three votes while Mercer has two.
Wofford said he was “concerned that Mercer County’s contribution to the cost of the detention center is only 27-percent yet Mercer County controls 40-percent of the votes on the joint jail committee.”
The interlocal agreement, which was passed by the fiscal courts of both Mercer and Boyle Counties in 1996, divided expenses 65-35 according to county population, with Mercer, the smaller county, paying the smaller share.
Mercer officials pointed out that over the last two decades, Mercer’s share of inmates has steadily declined. According to numbers provided by Boyle, Mercer spent $108,000 more for jail operations during the 2016-17 fiscal year than was warranted by the amount of prisoners from Mercer.
In 2018, the two counties renegotiated the interlocal agreement, allowing Mercer to pay a share of expenses that matched their share of the inmate population.
“We have a valid agreement with Boyle County and we will continue to honor our end of the agreement,” Dean said. “Boyle have expressed their concerns. We are attempting to have a fair and open dialogue about those concerns.”
He said the jail is insured through the Kentucky Association of Counties, which both counties pay into as part of the jail budget. If Wofford is “afraid of liability, let’s look at increasing the liability limits on the jail,” Dean said.
The two sides will meet again on Tuesday, Sept. 1, in Danville at 10 a.m. Council from Kentucky Jailers Association will be there.
At last week’s joint jail committee meeting, officials discussed jail finances. Some issues have been in the air since Wofford’s statements in July.
Boyle Treasurer Mary Conley, who had previously been quoted as saying she was “morally” unable to accept Mercer’s most recent payment of about $70,000 for jail operations, said she had deposited the money on Aug. 3.
Dean said if they can find an agreement that’s in the better interests of Mercer County, they’ll look at it. But he insists the interlocal agreement is valid.
“We are attempting to work our way through these issues,” he said.
The next meeting of the joint jail committee will be on Friday, Sept. 18, in the Boyle County Courthouse at 1 p.m.