By Charlotte Underwood/Staff Writer
A group of around 50 people crowded into the Williamsburg City Hall on Monday evening to listen to Whitley County attorney candidates speak about why they should be elected come voting time.
Candidates are current County Attorney Don Moses, Bob Hammons, a former two-term county attorney and assistant county attorney, as well as newcomer Graham Trimble. Each had an opportunity to introduce themselves and answer questions.
The discussion was hosted by the Whitley County UNITE Coalition. Adam Sulfridge moderated the event.
Whitley County UNITE Coalition Secretary Wayne Brooks said he feels roundtable discussions such as this are a great way for the citizens to meet the candidates.
“Events like this are important when it comes to elections because this will give the public a chance to get three different perspectives on the county attorney’s office,” Brooks said.
Whitley County resident Selma Terrell said she was glad for the opportunity to meet with the candidates and that she felt it was her “civic duty” to come and listen to the candidates speak.
“There’s so many candidates these days that don’t go out and stump that it’s hard to know what they stand for,” Terrell said.
Each candidate was given a block of time to respond to questions asked by the moderator. According to Sulfridge, candidates did not know what questions would be asked.
Before the discussion began, Sulfridge asked candidates and audience members alike to keep it civil and respectful.
As the discussion got underway, each candidate was given a three-minute window for introductions and to briefly say why they were running for office.
Trimble went first, citing his experience as a prosecutor as one of his reasons for running.
“I am running for Whitley County attorney because I am the son of a prosecutor, I grew up in a prosecutor’s home and have worked in the prosecutor’s office on every level. It’s something that I have seen from the inside and I think I have a lot to contribute to Whitley County and I believe there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed; I believe I am the person for that job,” Trimble said, explaining why he was best suited to be the next county attorney.
Hammons spoke next, explaining that he was running on three basic principles.
“I’m running on my experience, my character and my maturity,” Hammons said, drawing on his past experiences as Whitley County attorney.
“I’m running on my record, not anybody else’s record, but my record from when I was county attorney. I had an open door philosophy when I was county attorney,” Hammons said, explaining that the upcoming election was more than statistics in his opinion and was actually about the reputation of Whitley County.
Moses started off by assuring the audience that he lived in Whitley County. He also drew on his experiences as a county attorney. He brought up the 4,800 backlog of cases that he inherited when he was appointed to that office in October of 2011. He also gave the audience a list of case numbers where in the past, DUI cases had been dismissed for monetary contributions to the sheriff’s department. He then assured the public this would not happen if he was elected and that it had happened in the past, but would not go on under his administration.
This led Sulfridge to ask the candidates how they felt about DUI cases being continued endlessly and often being dismissed and how would they prevent it from happening if elected.
Hammons said it completely depended upon the case.
“It depends on the individual case obviously, you just can’t blanketly say that because that case is that way then that’s how it should be handled. The only point that I’m going to make to you is that I’m running on my record, not anybody else’s. I propose to do a docket call on cases so that they are reviewed every quarter at least and that they are disposed of appropriately,” Hammons said. He clarified though, that in no way would he “wholesale dismiss cases” just because they’ve been on the docket for months.
“DUI cases have to be prosecuted aggressively and diligently,” Hammons said.
Moses pointed out that the DUI cases that stretched out over long periods of time happened before he came into office in October and assured the audience and Sulfridge that his office was doing what it could to take care of these old cases.
“We’re setting pre-trial conferences, if the lab results are back, we do a plea or set it for trial and when I say set it for trial that’s what I mean. If the facts are there and the officer has properly prepared his case, they’re either going to plead or we’re gonna try them. That’s just the way it is going to happen,” Moses said.
Trimble said they could set and talk about the backlog of cases, but at the end of the day, the backlog of cases was not going to be reduced unless there were more trial days within the court, explaining that right now there was only one trial day in Whitley County, Corbin and Williamsburg. He offered the information that Laurel County has a trial date each week.
“The county attorney has to work with the clerk’s office and with the judges, this is not just one person’s deal. I promise, if elected, I’m going to be the one there lobbying to get this done, I’m going to address it,” Graham said.
At the end of the discussion, candidates were asked by an audience member what they would do, if elected, to help prevent the drug problem that Whitley County faces.
Each candidate agreed that education was the key, but not just with the children.
“We have to educate the parents and go hand-in-hand with the schools to fight the problem. This drug problem affects the rich, the poor and the middle class, it hits us all and it’s going to take all of us to do something about it,” Hammons said.
Moses also agreed that education was an important factor in fighting the drug epidemic and that children and families needed to be educated.
“The problem is drugs are too easy to come by on all levels. Somewhere along the lines, society has lost the ability to regulate the drugs that have hit the street,” Moses said.
Trimble said he felt that feedback from the children was the key.
“We need to get feedback from the kids, especially at the high school level, who can work with the law enforcement, provide the feedback they need in order to help with the problem,” Trimble said.
Trimble, Moses and Hammons will appear on the republican ballot for the May 22 primary election.