Impeachment committee hearing case of Kenton judge

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - A special House Impeachment Committee is taking up the matter of a northern Kentucky judge accused of misconduct.


In November, the Judicial Conduct Commission charged Kenton County Family Court Judge Dawn Gentry with nine counts of judicial misconduct.


According to documents from the Judicial Conduct Commission as well as the resolution establishing the seven-member committee, the allegations against Gentry include:


--Coercion to help her 2018 election, including having court workers contribute to her campaign, soliciting attorneys to put up campaign signs, having court staff work on the campaign during office hours.


--Retaliating against those who did not support her campaign.


--Falsifying timesheets of workers, bringing her children to work where they observed confidential court proceedings, permitting staff to drink alcohol while on the job.


--Directing school liaison officers to file school dependency, neglect, and abuse cases only once per month, and to only file certain petitions as truancy cases rather than dependency, neglect, and abuse cases.  Retaliating against them if they followed their employers’ instructions instead of hers.


--Holding pretrial conferences in dependency, neglect, and abuse cases with members of the Guardian ad Litem panel to which private attorneys representing parties in those cases were not invited.


--Inappropriate and unwanted sexual advances.


--Hiring a man with whom she had been having a sexual relationship.


--Hiring and appointing court staff not based on merit.


--Failure to be candid and honest with the Commission.


Rep. Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, who was named Chairman of the Impeachment Committee, says their job is two-fold.  “First of all, to investigate the allegations that were disclosed in the resolution; and second, to make a report back to the full House of whether any action should be taken after we have investigated the allegations.  What action that would be was whether or not articles of impeachment would be issued.”


While Petrie says he would like to conclude their work before the General Assembly adjourns April 15, “The problem is this is an investigatory committee.  I have no idea what landscape we’re going to be traversing.”


The Judicial Conduct Commission has an April 20 hearing date for Judge Gentry, who has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of the hearing.  Petrie says this is a separate proceeding altogether.  “Their purposes are different from the resolution that created this committee.”


He adds since the committee will be acting like a grand jury, most proceedings will be behind closed doors.


Impeachments involving Kentucky elected officials have been rare.


Two of the most notable examples are James W. “Honest Dick” Tate, the Kentucky State Treasurer, who was convicted in absentia for allegedly taking $250,000 in state finds and disappearing in 1888. 


More recently, Agriculture Commissioner Ward “Butch” Burnette, who was serving a one-year sentence for theft, resigned in 1991, before his trial in the Senate took place.

     

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