Union Co. Judge Executive Serving As Interim Road Foreman

The Union County Fiscal Court will host a special meeting next week to address a number of key issues including the naming of a new county road foreman.Long time foreman James Cooper retired earlier this month, leaving embattled Judge Executive Jody Jenkins to serve as interim foreman.

When Cooper formally reitred on June 7th, it created a power struggle between Jenkins, members of the fiscal court and those vying to become the new road foreman, according to multiple sources. Four people formally applied for the position and were interviewed in May, not long after Cooper notified the fiscal court that he would be retiring.

According to multiple sources, Jenkins' preferred pick for the position is Magistrate Chuck Voss. However, Voss lacks some of the requirements set forth in Kentucky state statute.

According to state law, someone cannot be hired as a county road supervisor unless he has at least three years of practical road building experience and has passed a written or oral exam.

Three other people have applied for the position, including a current employee of the road department, sources said.

Until Cooper's replacement is named next week, Judge Jenkins, who also has no road building experience, is serving as the acting road foreman. This is permitted by state law.

"I think [road department employess] have only been mad at me a couple times," Jenkins jokingly said at Tuesday's fiscal court meeting.

With Coopers departure, Jenkins is now temporarily in charge of the very department that he's been accused of exploiting.

For much of 2015, Jenkins was embroiled in scandal, capped off by a scathing state audit releated in December. The audit found the county's normal purchasing procedures of acquiring equipment when it is needed and requested by a county department was not followed. In the case of six pieces of heavy equipment seized by the FBI on December 31, 2014, the equipment was purchased because it was being offered at a good price, according to the audit. The county's insurance carrier, KACo, denied the county's repeated insurance claims. The county could never recoup the $97,775 spent on the equipment.

The equipment was reportedly tied to an elaborate theft ring operating out of Vanderburgh County and allegedly masterminded by Thomas Elpers and his son, Andrew.

On New Years Eve, just days before announcing arrests had been made in the case, Evansville detectives and FBI agents arrived in Morganfield to seize several pieces of equipment that Union County had purchased over a six month span in 2014. Five of the pieces of equipment were reportedly stolen, according to law enforcement sources. According to records obtained by Eyewitness News, the county spent nearly $100,000 on the seized equipment.


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