By Charlotte Underwood / Staff Writer
As the election hour draws nigh, three candidates are vying to be Whitley’s next county attorney.
Incumbent Don Moses, former county attorney Bob Hammons and newcomer Graham Trimble have all cast their names into the ballot box in the hopes of winning on May 22.
All three candidates are affiliated with the Republican party. Each candidate brings something a little different to the county attorney table and believes that he is the best man for the job.
According to candidate surveys, 68-year-old Moses has practiced law for the past 40 years. He was appointed as the current county attorney in Oct., 2011 by Judge Executive Pat White Jr., after then county attorney Paul Winchester became a circuit court judge.
Moses argues that he is the right candidate for the position because he has been fulfilling those duties and making improvements to the county attorney’s office since his appointment.
“My two top priorities have been dealing with the 4,800 backlogged cases I’ve inherited, as well as improving the child support office and its collection record,” Moses said.
According to Moses, many of the backlogged cases are at least 12-years-old, with hundreds of them being active DUI cases.
To handle the backlog of cases, Moses asked Whitley County District Court Judges to give up a day off and try to get through the cases. Moses said he has no plans to dismiss the cases regardless of how long they have been on the docket.
“This date roughly coincides with my opponent (Hammons) becoming chief assistant county attorney,” Moses said in his candidate survey.
“In order to address this problem, I first had to increase the number of current cases my office handles in order to create the time necessary to handle the backlog,” Moses said, explaining that he even adopted the policy of taking a staff member to court with him to organize the criminal files in order to expedite the the current cases.
He went on to add that it is his intent to establish a method to bring the docket current and keep it current.
Moses also said he plans to deal with the DUIs aggressively.
“I will prosecute the impaired driver, whether of alcohol or drugs, as vigorously as possible to keep the Whitley County roadways safe from the impaired driver,” Moses said.
Moses said he would also “vigorously” prosecute thefts, burglaries, and drug cases in an effort to rid the drug problem that permeates Whitley County.
Moses said the child support office has been and will remain a priority of the county attorney.
According to Moses, the child support office was a particular problem because it was located in an inadequate space in a church basement in Corbin, rented from the law firm of Hammons and Britain.
“In the interest of full disclosure, Bob Hammons of the law firm of Hammons and Britain is my opponent in the upcoming election,” Moses said. He went on to say that the office was inadequately staffed by one case worker and receptionist. Since being appointed as county attorney, Moses has relocated the child support office to Main Street in Williamsburg and increased the staff.
“Once the staff is fully trained, I will be in a position to increase the output of the office and improve Whitley County’s standing among all other Kentucky counties in terms of child support collection,” Moses said. He asks the public to vote for him and “keep Whitley County moving forward.”
Moses attended Pleasant View High School. He obtained a BBA from Case Western Reserve University and a Doctor of Juris Prudence Degree from Emory University. He is a past master of the Masonic Lodge and a member of both the Kentucky and Tennessee Bar Associations. He is married, with three children and six grandchildren.
Former county attorney and former assistant county attorney Bob Hammons also believes he has the skills and experience to be elected.
“I am running on my past record and my experience and maturity,” Hammons said, explaining that he wanted to give Whitley County what they deserved in a county attorney, “experience, character and maturity.”
The 56-year-old has been practicing law for the past 31 years. He currently has a law office in Corbin and is the attorney for the city. He is also the attorney for the Corbin Independent Schools, tourism commission, city utilities commission and the chamber of commerce.
If elected, Hammons said he will carefully “evaluate” his current responsibilities.
“I will prioritize my practice and evaluate my duties so that the people of Whitley County get what they deserve — an accessible county attorney,” Hammons said.
His first prosecutor experience came when he was chosen to be assistant county attorney under former county attorney Emby McKeehan. After McKeehan was elected as judge, Hammons was appointed to fulfill his term and then went on to win another term in the office in an uncontested election. He is counting on this experience to earn him the people’s vote.
“This is an important position. It is prosecutor for the county; it shouldn’t be an office testing ground for experience,” Hammons said, explaining why he was the best candidate for the job.
Hammons denies any part in the vast backlog of cases, stating that he was mostly a juvenile prosecutor during that time period.
“I did mostly juvenile cases and my record in that department is unblemished,” Hammons said in regards to Moses alleging he had anything to do with the large number of backlogged cases.
Hammon’s suggestion to prevent some of the backlog of cases such as the one that Moses is dealing with involves a special docket that he has come up with called the “Rocket Docket.”
It would be a “user friendly” docket system implemented by Hammons if elected as county attorney.
“It would be a system that would streamline the cases that hit district court,” Hammons said. The “Rocket Docket” would contain certain types of cases, such as simple disputes between neighbors, and allow them to move through the court system faster, with less actual appearances, according to Hammons.
“If you’ve got 20 cases on the docket, maybe half of them are that type of case. The Rocket Docket would benefit everyone because there would be less time tied up in court; that’s less time people have to miss work, less time they have to pay the babysitter and more time for the court system to focus on the harsher crimes,” Hammons said.
“Rocket Docket” cases would be handled typically in one court appearance, according to Hammons.
Hammons also said if elected, he plans to establish a “bad check” collection program for merchants.
“These people work very hard for their money and writing a bad check is essentially stealing from them,” Hammons said, explaining that he wanted to provide this program to help the local merchants.
“In most cases,only one trip to the county attorney’s office will be required of merchants who have had a bad check written to them,” Hammons said.
Separate from the “Rocket Docket,” Hammons also said he would implement a periodic docket call so that information on pending cases could consistently be reviewed and would not get “lost in a filing cabinet somewhere.”
“Despite the commendable efforts of Judges, dockets have become overcrowded,” Hammons said.
As county attorney, he will institute periodic full docket reviews of all pending cases to keep them moving toward conclusion. He said much of this problem is compounded by bench warrants that have to be issued for defendants who fail to appear.
“Bench warrants can take weeks, months or even years to serve and can triple the backlog. However, I don’t agree with those who think old bench warrant cases should be dismissed just to reduce dockets. Why reward those who fail to appear?” Hammons said.
Drugs and theft are also high on Hammons priority list of problems facing Whitley County.
As Hammons put it, the battle against drugs is daunting, but it can be won.
“Drugs are probably the most destructive force in our community. The use and sale of illegal drugs destroy the lives of our young and the very fabric of our community. Addicts burglarize, abuse others, and steal, even from their own families,” Hammons said. His solution is a simple one. “Jail the pushers. In addition to prosecution of the addicts, and when appropriate, require treatment including, long-term “in house” treatment,” Hammons said.
Finally, Hammons said he wanted the public to know that he would be available to anyone needing assistance.
Hammons is a self-employed attorney with an office in Corbin. He was educated at Corbin High School before going on to earn his B.A. from Eastern Kentucky University and then attending the University of Kentucky Law School.
He is a member of the Whitley County Cattlemen’s Association, the American Quarter Horse Association, the Whitley County Bar Association and the Kentucky Bar Association.
He is married to Debra G. Hammons and has a daughter Sarah E, Hammons, and a son Jake Hammons.
Thirty-one-year-old Graham Trimble has never held the office of county attorney, and said that he feels he will provide a new and fresh perspective to the position. He also promises that if elected, the county attorney’s office will be his primary duty.
“The people deserve a full-time county attorney,” Trimble said, pointing out that Hammons already serves as the attorney for several entities in Corbin.
Trimble said if elected he will face several issues as the new county attorney, with most of them revolving around the prosecution of DUIs, the collection of child support and the management of cases.
Trimble said with recent local elections in Corbin and Williamsburg to expand the sale of alcohol, that prompt and aggressive prosecution of DUI related offenses is “essential to insuring that our roads remain safe.”
“Whitley County has struggled recently to prosecute DUI offenses to their conclusion and has attained, on average, a lower conviction rate than other counties in Kentucky,” Trimble said.
According to the Kentucky Department of Transportation and the Administrative Office of the Courts, between 2006 and 2010, Whitley County averaged a DUI conviction rate of approximately 72-percent, which is over 12-percent lower than the state average of 84.9-percent.
“This is just plain unacceptable and I promise to be prompt and aggressive with DUI related offenses,” Trimble said.
The management of the child support office also came high on Trimbles’s priority list.
“As your next Whitley County Attorney, I will make child support collection on behalf of the children of Whitley County a top priority,” Trimble said, explaining that in today’s economy, parents have enough to deal with without having to worry whether their former spouse is keeping with their obligation to support their children.
“When child support is not paid, we as a society pay the price in the reduced quality of life for our children, and the impact that has on their everyday lives and their ability to perform well in school. The children of Whitley County deserve a County Attorney who doesn’t consistently rank at the bottom in child support collection compared to other counties,” Trimble said. Since June of 2010, Whitley County has ranked, on average, 115 out of 120 counties in child support collection. As of the last published rankings by the Cabinet for Families and Children, Whitley County ranks 117 out of 120.
“The children and parents of Whitley County deserve better,” Trimble said.
Finally he spoke on the issue of case management, referring to the large backlog of cases.
“Currently there is only one trial day per month in District Court. An expanded trial schedule will insure that all criminal defendants receive timely access to the justice system while preventing cases, such as DUIs, from remaining on the Court’s docket for months at a time,” Trimble said. He said if elected as the next county attorney, he will work with both the Clerk’s office and the District Judges to increase the amount of trial days per month in order to prevent case backlogs from occurring.
Trimble is currently an attorney with Mann & Trimble, P.S.C., located in Corbin. He was educated at Corbin High School and then later attended college at Eastern Kentucky University before earning his law degree at Chase College of Law (Northern Kentucky University).
Trimble is a member of the Kentucky Bar Association, he is the President of the Whitley County Young Republicans and a member of the Rotary Club as well.
He is married to his wife Marianne. They have one daughter named Reagan.