Joe P. Asher
Tempers flared during a meeting of the Benham City Council on Thursday regarding an allegation that newly elected council member Robert “Monk” Falls was sworn into office after the Jan. 1 deadline. However, Falls isn’t going down without a fight seeking input from the Kentucky attorney general and now has produced a document that he says supports his position of being a legal council member.
Falls said he was sworn in on Jan. 3 by Cumberland Mayor Carl Hatfield with the Cumberland City Clerk witnessing the action.
According to Mayor Shirley Dodd, Falls swearing in was not legal.
“I read the law — the one I handed him (Falls) — you’re supposed to be sworn in by Dec 31. That is what I understood,” said Dodd. “Some of them said you could be sworn in at the first meeting. My understanding of that is if the mayor announces a week or so before that he’s going to swear everybody in at the first council meeting that makes it legal. If it’s scheduled you can do it at your first council meeting, but it wasn’t.”
Falls said he has been in contact with The Office of the Attorney General.
“I got a letter from the attorney general’s office,” said Falls. “There’s a precedent set on this before.”
Falls said a letter was sent to the city of Benham supporting his position from The Office of the Attorney General.
“The attorney general’s office sent one to her (Dodd). They sent the same letter to me,” said Falls.
The attorney general’s letter provided to the Enterprise by Falls cites the case of Lewin v. Ft. Mitchell, stating “the courts have held that a person may execute the oath within a reasonable time after said date and still be qualified to serve.”
According to Falls, he has been a council member before and a different procedure was followed.
“Before, when I was on the council, they always did it at the first council meeting,” said Falls. “The mayor always swore everybody in together… this time they didn’t do it. We’ll see at the next council meeting if she (Dodd) will accept the letter from the attorney general or if we will have to proceed through the judicial system. If that’s the way it has to be, that’s the way it’s going to be.”
Falls pointed out he expected problems with his election from the current administration.
“I knew there were going to be problems when I got elected,” said Falls. “They didn’t want me in there because I’m not the type of person that’s going to sit back and just listen and vote on everything not knowing what the results will be.”
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-573-4510 or firstname.lastname@example.org