LEMASTERS CLAIM IN LAWSUIT THEY WERE VICTIMS IN 2019 ON INTO THIS YEAR, OF MULTIPLE ROUNDS OF INTERFERENCE AND RETALIATION BY JUDGE CARTER AGAINST THEIR TOWING BUSINESS AND LOCAL FIRE DEPARTMENT LED BY THE HUSBAND
A Lawrence County couple who own a local towing business have filed a federal lawsuit against Lawrence County Judge Executive Phillip L. Carter, whom they alleged in their suit complaint interfered and caused economic damage for them by losing business due to his actions
Billy Lemaster and Amanda Lemaster,, who own Lemaster Towing and Recovery, filed their lawsuit against Judge Carter on Friday, February 7, in U.S. District Court in Ashland, Ky. both individually and in his official capacity.
Both of the Lemasters’ say in their suit complaint that their towing service is on the call list that is maintained by Lawrence County and used by emergency personnel when a tow is needed by local law enforcement.
“Prior to interference by the Lawrence County Judge Executive, Phillip Carter, Lemaster Towing would receive five to six towing calls per month from the county needing towing services,” the lawsuit stated. “However following the interference by Carter with the towing call list, Lemaster Towing started receiving zero to as little as one call per month.”
The lawsuit said the Lemasters’ are entitled to free speech protection against Carter’s retaliatory administration of the county’s towing service call list and have been forced to file suit for his continued interference with their business relations.
Lawrence County E-911/Emergency Management maintains a rotation list used to allocate towing services to assist police officers in moving stranded vehicles throughout the county, the lawsuit states.
Each company on the list is approved by the Lawrence County E-911 director, the lawsuit stated.
If a request is not made at the scene for a specific towing company, dispatch will refer to the rotation list to retain services of an available towing company in rotation, the lawsuit stated. If a towing company is unavailable for dispatch, the dispatch caller will proceed down the call list until an available towing company is retained to go to the scene, the lawsuit stated.
Lemaster Towing & Recovery is one of six towing companies on the list maintained by the county and it costs $3,800 per year to maintain the insurance required to remain on the towing rotation list, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said when Carter was elected to the judge executive office in January 2019, the couple expressed concerns to Carter that they were receiving “very little or no calls” from the county using the towing call list. Judge Carter told them he would investigate and make sure they began receiving more towing calls, the lawsuit stated.
In April 2019, Billy Lemaster “expressed his personal opinions on Facebook concerning a recent firing of a Lawrence County Emergency EMS employee and was critical of the County’s decision,” the lawsuit said. “On April 14, 2019, Defendant Carter called Billy Lemaster and demanded that he remove his Facebook post concerning his personal opinions because of the post’s poor reflection on Defendant Carter as Judge Executive. In exchange for removing the negative Facebook post, Defendant Carter told that he would go the Lawrence County EMS office the next morning to make sure Plaintiff began receiving more towing calls. Plaintiff Billy Lemaster agreed to remove the negative Facebook post according to Defendant Carter’s wishes.”
The lawsuit says Judge Carter went the next day to the Lawrence County EMS office to “fix the issue with the tow call list and make sure that the Lemasters began receiving more calls, the lawsuit stated.
The Lemasters’ company began receiving more calls from the list and that they had a maintained “steady volume” of calls on throughout the summer of 2019.
In September 2019, the Lemasters alleged in their lawsuit that Judge Carter began “substantially interfering” with operations at the Cherryville Fire and Rescue, where Billy Lemaster was serving as the fire chief of the department at that time.
The Lemasters said in their lawsuit that they discovered that Judge Carter had informed the Lawrence County EMS dispatch that the Cherryville Fire and Rescue would not be responding to emergency calls.
“Plaintiffs learned that such interference by Defendant Carter caused a house to burn to the ground because the EMS dispatch was directed not to dispatch the Cherryville Fire Department,” the lawsuit stated.
Billy Lemaster resigned as the fire chief of the department in September 2019, due to the conflict with Judge Carter, but Billy Lemaster is still involved in the operations of the fire department,” the lawsuit stated.
The lawsuit says that the Lemasters discovered that Judge Carter called the Kentucky Fire Commission to have the Cherryville Fire and Rescue audited. Once the audit was completed, the information was relayed to Judge Carter, the lawsuit stated.
Judge Carter had no “reasonable justification or authority to command such an audit,” the lawsuit stated.
In January of this year (2020), Judge Carter “caused the Kentucky State Police to show up at the Cherryville Fire Department where Billy Lemaster was employed in order to inspect the premises, which is a task designated to the Kentucky Fire Commission,” the lawsuit said.
Also in January 2020, the Lemasters received a phone call from the Lawrence County Sheriff, Chuck Jackson, asking them why he was getting calls from Judge Carter, requesting that Sheriff Jackson to do an inventory of the Cherryville Fire Department.
“On January 17,2020, Plaintiffs received a call from the Lawrence County Department that Defendant Carter instructed the Sheriff’s Department to cut the locks off the doors to inspect the Cherryville Fire and Rescue, having no right, justification or authority to make such commands,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit alleges that ever since Judge Carter’s interference with Billy Lemaster at the Cherryville Fire Department, the Lemasters’ experienced a sudden drop in the amount of towing calls they were receiving from the county starting in September 2019.
“Plaintiffs discovered that in September of 2019, Defendant Carter told dispatch at Lawrence County EMS to not call Lemaster Towing when law enforcement needed towing services, directing the dispatch callers to skip Lemaster Towing and call the next company on the list,” the lawsuit stated. “Currently, Plaintiffs continue to receive zero to one towing call per month because of the interference with Defendant Carter and continue to experience conflict at the volunteer fire department where Mr. Lemaster was previously dedicated.”
The lawsuit by Billy and Amanda Lemaster was filed on their behalf by Grayson, Ky. attorney William H. Wilhoit, that seeks, among other relief, compensatory and punitive damages, and a jury trial.
A lawsuit describes only one side of a case. Judge Carter has been asked for a response and we will post it as soon as we get it.