The Kentucky Association of Counties is stepping in on behalf of Daviess County in a lawsuit over the ownership of the Confederate statue on the courthouse lawn.
Tim Sturgill, KACo’s legal counsel, said Friday the organization has appointed Owensboro attorney Mike Lee to represent the county in the lawsuit, which was filed against Daviess Fiscal Court by the Kentucky Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
The suit revolves around ownership of the 121-year-old statue, which was placed on the courthouse lawn by the Daviess County Confederate Association and John C. Breckenridge Chapter 306 Daughters of the Confederacy. Daviess Fiscal Court allowed the statue to placed at the courthouse in an order county officials approved in 1893.
The Kentucky United Daughters of the Confederacy claim ownership of the statue, saying the organization assumed all of Chapter 306’s assets when the group disbanded in 1970. County Attorney Claud Porter said previously the county owns the statue because it sits on county property and has been insured and maintained by the county.
The UDC is asking the court to say it owns the statue so it can be placed at a new site of its choosing. County officials said last month they were in talks with an unnamed entity about a new location for the statue.
Sturgill said KACo has an interest because it insures the county’s elected officials. The lawsuit names Judge-Executive Al Mattingly and Commissioners Charlie Castlen, Mike Koger and George Wathen as defendants.
Sturgill said he could not discuss the case specifics, but, “if it’s county property, we insure that for Daviess County, and we do insure the elected officials for the county as well.”
KACo has handled cases “about whether a county owned certain property,” Sturgill said.
Nicholas Goetz, an Owensboro attorney and one of the attorneys representing the Kentucky UDC, said Friday he hadn’t received anything saying KACo was taking over the representation for the county, and could not comment.
Porter said a hearing currently scheduled for Tuesday will be rescheduled to Friday, and Lee will file motions on the case by Monday.
“All of the commissioners told me they got a letter saying they (KACo) are going to represent them,” Porter said.
The hearing was set to hear a temporary restraining order, preventing Fiscal Court from moving the statue until the issue of ownership is settled.
“We also agreed to file a counterclaim,” he said.
The counterclaim, Porter said, will argue that if the court rules the statue belongs to the UDC, the county “ought to be reimbursed for the cost of keeping it there” at the courthouse.
The case is scheduled to be presided over by Daviess Circuit Judge Lisa Payne Jones.
Lee, who is a partner in the firm of McCarroll, Nunley, Hartz and Lee, said he has not received confirmation as of Friday afternoon of the new date for the hearing. Lee said he would file a response to the UDC’s motion for a temporary restraining order, and would also file the counterclaim.
“I have not finished my review of the documents,” Lee said, and while his response and the counterclaim would be the only two documents filed next week, “there will definitely be other filings.”
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, email@example.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse