State 911 Board loses local representation

By By JOHN PFEIFER jpfeifer@paducahsun.com

McCracken County Judge-Executive Bob Leeper and three other county and city representatives appointed to the state 911 Board by Gov. Matt Bevin in September 2016 were removed from the board by an executive order Wednesday without any advance notice from the governor's office.

Several members ousted by Bevin -- including Leeper -- learned about the order from media. The Kentucky Office of Homeland Security (KOHS) Wednesday distributed a news release announcing names of the new five-member panel that will replace the 15-member board.

Tim Vaughn, another county representative from Jessamine County, said he found out via a text from his county 911 director.

"If you can be appointed, I suppose you can be un-appointed," Vaughn said. However, based on his understanding of Kentucky Revised Statute 65.7623, which lays out who should serve on the 911 Board, he believes other city and county representatives will need to be appointed.

That statute, adopted last year, calls for a 15-member board that includes two city and two county representatives.

"The citizens of the commonwealth depend on 911 dispatch centers for life-saving communications during emergency situations day and night," Bevin stated in the news release.

"As Kentucky's 911 system transitions from an outdated analog model to modern digital capabilities, it is imperative that the leadership of the initiative follows the most effective and efficient strategy possible.

Kentucky is not currently a leader in the implementation of Next Generation 911 technology. For the safety of our citizens we must adopt NG911 solutions."

The executive order cuts the board's membership from 15 to five, reducing board travel expenses and reimbursement expenses, and creates an advisory council of 13 members appointed by the governor.

Leeper said from the three meetings he's attended since being appointed to the 911 board he gained valuable insight.

"The best part was getting to see how others did things differently," Leeper said.

Vaughn agreed. "I have more understanding of 911, the intricacies of 911 funding, and the history and structure of 911 because of my involvement on the board," he said.

The next meeting of the original 911 Board was scheduled for May 24, but after a phone call to John Holiday, KOHS executive director, Leeper said he was told that meeting has been canceled.

The May meeting would have been Rep. John Blanton's first since his appointment by House Speaker Jeff Hoover in January. Blanton, R-Salyersville, also received no advanced notice of his removal prior to Wednesday's news release from KOHS.

"I've not even been to a board meeting yet," Blanton said.

"The governor is making a lot of changes to make things more efficient. That's his prerogative," he added.

Mike Sunseri, spokesman for the KOHS, said Joe Barrows, executive director for the 911 board, had his position eliminated as a consequence of the executive order.

He said that statute requires appropriate staff support for the board, and with a smaller board, the staff size could be reduced.

Sunseri said that the presence of the advisory board would satisfy state statute requirements and predicted that next year "a new statute will be introduced that codifies the executive order."