FIRED DIRECTOR HIRES ADAMS IN REGIONAL JAIL CONTROVERSY
PAINTSVILLE, KY. — On or about May 1, 2019 inmate Mark Howard from Prestonsburg, was found deceased by an apparent suicide at the Big Sandy Detention Center, but no official cause of death has been made by Johnson Co. Coroner J.R. Frisby.
The KSP in Pikeville confirmed that “they have an open death investigation” into the incident and “usually do not comment on suicides” according to KSP spokesperson William Petry.
The new Interim detention center administrator Clarence Dingus was working during this time after the firing of administrator F.D. “Pete” Fitzpatrick two weeks ago. He could not be reached for comment this morning.
TURMOIL AT THE DETENTION CENTER
This happened after a lot of changes were made at the Detention Center starting on Thursday April 18, 2019. A vote was passed by the detention center’s Board of Directors that Administrator F.D. “Pete” Fitzpatrick was suspended for 30 days, effective immediately, with his termination to happen after the 30 days. The vote was 5-4 with one member not present.
Since then the board of directors has turned some of the negative into positive solutions such as all employees have received a raise in pay.
The Detention Center has also purchased a $180,000 X-Ray machine to stop the flow of drugs being brought in by prisoners hiding contraband on or in their person.
Also, the surplus amount of money in the Detention’s bank account has been put back into the jail fund for use in making the detention center more feasible and brought up to code. In the most recent inspection overcrowding was the number one problem.
“The directors and employees are trying to turn things around for the good of employees along with inmates incarcerated,” Board Chairperson Daniel Castle said. “We hope to rehabilitate prisoners by a holistic approach instead of prisoners becoming better criminals while incarcerated, so that they may have the chance to be productive members of society.”
Castle said that he has only been on the jail board authority since January, and that the issues regarding to jail’s conditions were brought to the jail authority board attention from an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) complaint that they received in January.
“The complaint was investigated and was founded, so the jail board took action,” according to Mr. Castle.
“I was saddened by the conditions”, he said. “It really bothers me to think we treat animals better. This place houses the sons and daughters of our counties and they should be treated better. Criminals or not, we have a duty to protect and they have an expectation to live in a safe environment.”
Chairman Castle stated that it is spelled out in the jail board policies that each cell has to be cleaned and and inspected each month and that it was Fitzpatrick’s responsibility to make sure it was done.
In a concerted effort to fix the problems at the Big Sandy Regional Detention Center, which was built in the 1980’s, Castle said they are going prison cell by prison cell, treating them for mold & mildew and painting each one of the jail cells.
“We are replacing all shower basins and shower curtains,” Castle reported. “We recently bought a $4,000 machine specifically for cleaning the cells. We are also having an inspection to the duct work done to make sure that it’s not contaminated”.
By viewing the slideshow below you can see all the disrepair and unhealthy living conditions. Mr. Castle, the board and employees are making much needed changes. And referred us to their attorney Nelson Sparks who did not return messages asking for comment.
Mr. Fitzpatrick was reached for comment but could only say, “ in Law Enforcement there is a huge turnover rate, the job is not for everyone.” He then referred us to his attorney Bud Adams, a highly successful defense attorney, also of Louisa.
There will be a public meeting held Thursday the 16, 2019 at 6pm at the old Paintsville Court House to further discuss these matters.
VOTE OF DISSENT
A lone jail authority member who voted against the firing, Joe Mills of Johnson County, said there were painting issues and mold issues. Mills said that he has been on the jail authority for almost three years and that all of the members of the jail board are new.
“Having served as President of three community colleges over my career and having hired over 5,000 people over this time, I thought that Pete (Fitzpatrick) was doing a very good job,” Mills said in email to the Big Sandy News. “Yes, there were some painting issues and some mold issues, but they were easily resolved. We just passed the state inspection with a good report.”
“I once told him (Pete) that running a multi-county jail was much more difficult than running a college. I don’t know anyone in this area who could really handle this jail and its many challenges. I understood that someone was hired to be the temporary administrator for one month (Clarence Dingus), and during this time, the position will be advertised in area newspapers. Right now, I think a really qualified applicant would be crazy to take this job because not all of the counties can pay their bills, and the jail facility building is coming apart. Walls are separating from the floors and cracks are everywhere. Our insurance carrier does not want to pay for the repairs,” Joe Mills claimed.
Jail authority members discussed F.D. Fitzpatrick’s employment Thursday, April 18, for two hours, Mills said.
“Last month, he (Fitzpatrick) was asked to make some changes, mostly painting,” Joe Mills stated. “He responded very well and he sent us pictures from week to week. At the April meeting, it was my understanding that the Jail Board would buy out 75 percent of his contract if Pete would agree to that, so they brought him back into the meeting. No one brought up the buyout. Suddenly someone made a motion of terminate him. The motion passed, but it was not unanimous. In the open meeting, someone told him to clean out his office and so Pete left the meeting to due that. He was also told that he could not take the black Ford car home with him. I think he hitched a ride with one of the Jail Board members from Martin County.”
Joe Mills said he became ill and left the meeting.
“The other matters were not significant enough to get the attention of last year’s board,” Joe Mills said. “This new board was more difficult to please.”
Joe Mills further stated that if new board members can fire a jail administrator, a school principal, a school superintendent or a community college president without providing a full due process, then anyone in those kinds of jobs should be concerned.
Joe Mills said that he had studied contract law from 1970 through 2005.
“In this day and time, you just don’t fire a professional job holder who has a contract unless that person has been given a chance to resolve the issues that the employer has against him or her,” Joe Mills remarked. “After a probationary period, a hearing should be provided, and the affected employee should be allowed to bring his/her attorney to the hearing. After the hearing is over, the Board has a right to make a decision. Our Jail Board did part of this but not all of it. When the buyout of his contract or 75% percent of it did not happen, the Jail Board’s decision to terminate his employment just opened the door to a lawsuit and depositions and more depositions.”
LAZER crime reporter Wade Queen contributed to this story.