Both sides claim statue ownership in dispute

Jerry Ambs of the Daviess County Fiscal Court works putting out fresh mulch on the grounds of the Daviess County Courthouse on April 21 as the Confederate memorial statue still stands on the southwest corner of the lawn.

The attorney representing the Kentucky United Daughters of the Confederacy in their lawsuit against Daviess Fiscal Court said the group believes it owns the Confederate Monument at the Daviess County Courthouse.

The original agreement allowing the statue to be erected on the courthouse lawn does not give ownership of the statue to the county, attorney Nick Goetz said.

Meanwhile, Daviess County Attorney Claud Porter said the statue has belonged to the county since it was erected, and is listed as county property by the National Register of Historic Places.

The Kentucky United Daughters of the Confederacy filed a lawsuit Tuesday, claiming the UDC owns the statue. The county has been looking for a new home for the statue, which has sat on the courthouse lawn for over a century.

The city has said the statue will not go to a city-owned property, and Daviess Judge-Executive Al Mattingly said recently he is in talks with an unnamed entity about a new location for the statue.

The lawsuit attempts to block the county from moving the statue, and asks a judge rule the statue belongs to the UDC.

“We are not trying to force the county to keep it at the courthouse on a permanent basis,” Goetz said Wednesday. “With Judge Mattingly’s statements in the paper that he is working with an unknown entity ... we simply ask the county to put the brakes on anything until we get the ownership (issue) resolved.”

The 1893 agreement for Daviess County Confederate Association to place the statue at the courthouse does not give the statue to the county, Goetz said.

“The county never owned it,” Goetz said. “It was only UDC property.”

The complaint filed Tuesday says ownership transferred from the John C. Breckenridge Chapter 306 Daughters of the Confederacy to the Kentucky UDC when Chapter 306 dissolved in 1970, and that the UDC has consistently listed it among the list of assets the group sends to the state.

“We simply want the property returned to the UDC,” Goetz said. If the UDC is declared the owner, the organization will move it off county property, Goetz said. A location has not yet been determined.

“We’ve had various people volunteer locations, or brainstorm ideas where it could go,” Goetz said. But thinking about a location before the ownership question is settled is “putting the cart before the horse,” Goetz said.

Porter said Tuesday the county has documentation saying the county owns the statue. The statue is listed as “public” when it was included in the National Registry of Historic Places in 1997, Porter said.

While the county did prepare a resolution last year saying the statue was owned by the UDC, the resolution was never acted on and is non-binding, Porter said.

Fiscal Court owns the statue since the agency has all responsibility for it, Porter said.

“The biggest thing is it’s sitting on our property, and (Fiscal Court) had to pass an ordinance saying ‘you can put something on our property’ ” in 1893, Porter said. “We insure it and maintain it.”

The statue is like other monuments, such as the Worker’s Memorial, which was paid for by an outside group but was essentially donated when it was placed on county property, Porter said.

A hearing on a motion for a temporary injunction is scheduled for May 11. The UDC is asking that Fiscal Court be prohibited from moving the statue anywhere until ownership is determined.

Porter said, “We’ll file a motion to deny that (injunction) and a motion to dismiss” the lawsuit. “I don’t think they have a claim.”

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

(1) comment

Stanley Lightner

The most appropriate place for this "statue" would be in a crucible at a bronze foundry.

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