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LETTER: Police hiring fiasco, lawsuit ‘unfortunate’ for Oldham residents

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To the editor:
The unfortunate hiring fiasco and lawsuit involving Shelbyville police officer Bruce Gentry has now been settled with a payment from fiscal court to Gentry of $474,000. Fiscal Court was able to obtain an agreement from our insurer, the Kentucky Association of Counties, to pay all but $5,000 of the settlement. Oldham County’s payment represents the deductible for the county’s portion of the employment practices insurance policy.
The individuals involved with the decision not to hire Gentry are no longer employees of Oldham County. The chief of police retired last year and the staff attorney who advised the chief regarding the applicability of USERRA to Mr. Gentry’s application was not continued when the new administration came into office in January.
Oldham County Fiscal Court is not directly involved with hiring new police officers. All hiring is done through a process conducted by the Oldham County Police Merit Board, an independent group of residents appointed by the judge-executive to oversee police management issues. The judge-executive is always a member of the police merit board.
The hiring process involving Gentry had not yet come before the Merit Board when the former chief decided not to hire Gentry, based on the advice of a staff attorney and the chief’s determination that Gentry might not be available to fill immediate manpower needs.  
Gentry’s application for employment was never reviewed or considered by the human resources committee or any other committee at the fiscal court. All steps in the hiring process, as well as the offer of employment, took place at the police department level. The first anyone at fiscal court, including former Oldham County Judge Executive Duane Murner, knew of it was when Gentry filed his lawsuit. After a lawsuit was filed, Gentry was offered a position with Oldham County police at three different times, but each time Gentry declined in favor of continuing his lawsuit.
While there are many opinions circulating about how and why this unfortunate circumstance occurred, the answer is it resulted from mistakes made by two people who decided it was legally permissible to withdraw the offer to Gentry when his availability came into question. The mistakes were not made with malice, but were none-the-less egregious errors in judgment.
We are proud of the men and women of Oldham County who serve in the National Guard. It has been and will continue to be the policy of Fiscal Court to support our employees who step up to defend the nation. Any perception to the contrary is simply wrong.
David Voegele
Oldham County Judge-Executive