Amid ongoing pressure to remove Confederate statues around Kentucky, Daviess Fiscal Court voted three to one to delay action on removing the monument from the grounds of the Daviess County Courthouse.
On Tuesday, Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly presented a resolution regarding the Confederate monument that would have returned the Confederate statue to the Daughters of the Confederacy Kentucky Chapter, and moved to property south of Panther Creek on U.S. 431. The property is owned by that chapter where there are pre-existing monuments for the Battle of Panther Creek.
Instead of voting on the resolution, County Commissioner George Wathen presented a motion to postpone the vote until the court’s first meeting on Aug. 6. Mattingly voted against delaying the vote, but Wathen’s motion was backed by commissioners Charlie Castlen and Mike Koger.
“The reason I want to delay the vote is that there are a lot of people that would like to have an opportunity to talk about this issue,” Wathen said. “Many don’t feel like they have been given an opportunity. It will give them an opportunity to hold a forum if they want to have it.”
Castlen seconded Wathen’s motion due to phone calls that he had with community members and Kentucky Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy President Susan McCrobie regarding a potential new location for the monument.
“Part of the reason that I moved to second the motion is that I had a few phone calls on my way into the courthouse this evening,” Castlen said. “A gentleman has said that he is willing to donate property to the Daughters of the Confederacy as an alternate site that he believes would be preferable, and I think the Daughters of the Daughters of the Confederacy will be amicable to it. I called Susan to confirm and she believes that this property would probably be more desirable.”
Mattingly, the sole dissenting vote against postponement, did not believe that there was anything to gain through waiting, he said.
“I think it is a mistake,” he said. “We gain nothing by waiting a month. You gain absolutely nothing. You will hear from the same folks that oppose removal and support it. It is time to make a decision. It is time for the court to make a decision. You have had input. We all have, all day today and over the past three or four weeks. I don’t know who will set up these forums that these folks want to set up because it certainly won’t be Fiscal Court. Unless one of you commissioners want to to do it, we only set up forums and discussions regarding ordinances or laws.”
The removal of the statue was initially spearheaded by the Rev. Rhondalyn Randolph, president of the Owensboro NAACP Branch 3107, in 2017, but gained little traction.
In recent weeks, the cause to remove Confederate statues across the United States has gained momentum in light of national protests brought about by the police-involved deaths of two Black individuals — George Floyd in Minnesota on May 25 and Breonna Taylor in Louisville on March 13.
In Kentucky, the call to take down Confederate iconography on public grounds has only continued to gain momentum, aided in large part by Beshear’s call to remove such monuments from county courthouses across the state, calling them, “a symbol that divides us.”
Mattingly is disappointed by the court’s decision, he said.
“This discussion during my 10 years as county judge has come up for a third time,” he said. “It has come up three times, 2012, 2017 and today. How much time does this Fiscal Court need to make a decision on the location of a statue that offends a large majority of the people? How much time do they need? If they think it is going to go away they are mistaken. I am disappointed that they postponed, but the ball is their court and in those that want the statue removed, they now know who they have to address and they know who they have to convince.”
As far as Wathen’s motion to postpone the much anticipated vote, it is a matter of having the time to make the correct decision, he said.
“With the fairness ordinance it was too long and with this issue it was moving too fast,” he said. “There are people that feel like they weren’t heard. I think we were moving too fast. The fairness ordinance went on for months, and this, we were just a week or two in it. A lot of people I talked to felt they needed more time and more options. It shows that it is important that we do it correctly and we need more time to do that.”
Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, firstname.lastname@example.org