Attorneys for Daviess Fiscal Court have filed a response in the lawsuit over ownership of the Confederate monument on the lawn of the Daviess County Courthouse.
The response is to a suit filed by the Kentucky Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy over the statue. The statue has stood on the county courthouse lawn for more than a century, and county officials have been in talks to move it to another location.
The Kentucky United Daughters of the Confederacy filed the suit, saying the organization became the statue’s owner when a smaller UDC chapter dissolved. The Kentucky UDC is asking the court to rule the organization owns the statue, returning it to them. Nicholas Goetz, one of the attorneys for the UDC, said previously that the group wants the right to place the statue elsewhere.
The county’s answer to the UDC’s complaint was filed jointly by Mike Lee, representing the Kentucky Association of Counties, and County Attorney Claud Porter. Goetz, who received the answer Wednesday morning, said it does not include a claim that the county owns the statue.
“At least in my reading of the answer, the county never makes the express claim the statue is their property,” Goetz said.
While many of the defenses in the response are general, the county’s response does say Fiscal Court disputes that the UDC owns the statue.
Fiscal Court did give the Daviess County Confederate Association permission to place the statue on the courthouse lawn, the response says, but disputes that the state UDC became the owners of the statue when the John C. Breckenridge Chapter 306 Daughters of the Confederacy dissolved in 1970.
The UDC claims it has listed the statue in the inventory of items it sends to the state since 1970.
The response says, even if the UDC lists the statue as its property, “such listing does not constitute proof of ownership.”
Goetz said Wednesday afternoon the UDC’s inventory list shows the organization believes they own the statue, and the agency listed the statue as one of its inventory of property on its latest list in 2019.
The response also says, while the 1893 agreement allowed the Daviess County Confederate Association to put the statue on courthouse property, the agreement “granted no authority to either plaintiff or predecessor or plaintiff.”
Goetz said the 1893 agreement was a license to place the statue on the property, and, “a license is generally transferrable, unless the document that grants the license prohibits it.”
The funds to erect the statue were provided by the Daviess County Confederate Association and the UDC, Goetz said.
“There was no restriction on who put it up,” he said. “... There was nothing in there that prohibited the (Confederate Association) from working with a second or third party, and that’s exactly what happened.”
The response says Fiscal Court has legislative immunity, absolute immunity and official/governmental immunity, and the suit should be dismissed. The response asks the court to dismiss the suit, with costs paid by the UDC.
Regarding ownership, Porter said previously the county insures the statue and said the statue sits on county land.
Porter said Wednesday afternoon the statue being on courthouse land makes it county property.
“It’s appurtenant property, attached to the land,” Porter said. “We own the land, so everything attached to it is ours.”
Porter said the UDC believing they own the statue and putting it in their inventory of artifacts is not enough.
“A belief is one thing, proof is another thing,” Porter said.
The UDC has not definitively shown they own the statue, he said.
“Find me a document that says the UDC ... own it,” Porter said. “... Find me a document that shows me the UDC cleaned it, or maintained it” or “claimed ownership in the last 100 years.”
The 1893 document giving the Daviess Confederate Association authority to place the statue was a license only for that organization, Porter said. That license, he said, “expired after the statue was placed.”
A hearing on a temporary restraining order that would bar Fiscal Court from moving the statue until the ownership dispute is settled in court, is set for May 19.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, email@example.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse