By Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
If the law sees things Larry Doucet’s way, Troy Combs will become the next mayor of Grayson by default.
Doucet filed a motion in Carter Circuit Court last Friday, September 2, against Grayson Mayoral Candidate Fred Miller – Combs’ only challenger in the race – and Carter County Clerk Mike Johnston, seeking to have Miller disqualified as a candidate for the office of mayor. Doucet’s affidavit in the case stated that he was “challenging the bona fides of Charles Fred Miller as a candidate for the office of Mayor,” and that “failing to disqualify or nullify (Miller’s candidacy) will cause immediate and irreparable harm to me and the public at large by allowing an ineligible, unqualified candidate to remain on the ballot.”
In addition to having Miller disqualified on the contention he, “is not a bona fide candidate for that office for the 2022 General Election,” the suit seeks to have Johnston, in his role as chair of the board of elections, either remove Miller’s name from the ballot or to refuse to count and certify any votes cast for Miller. The suit further calls for the board of elections to “post conspicuous notice in all polling places that no votes for Miller shall be counted for the office of Mayor, City of Grayson.”
The list of general allegations brought in the suit include an allegation that, as a mail carrier in the early 2000s, Miller failed to deliver some items entrusted to him for delivery, and that in 2006 Miller entered into a plea agreement for charges related to the charge of secreting and obstructing the mail in violation of federal law. The allegations further state that “Miller’s guilty plea acknowledges that Miller understood that the charge to which he was pleading guilty carried a possible penalty of 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of not more than $250,000.”
According to documentation associated with the suit Miller was given a much lighter sentence, of three years probation, six months house arrest, and a “special assessment of $100.00, which was imposed on him as a convicted felon pursuant to (federal law).” No further fines or restitution were charged.
This acknowledgement of a felony conviction, as part of the plea deal, is the point that Doucet’s lawsuit hinges on. Because the Constitution of Kentucky prevents any person convicted of a felony from holding office in Kentucky, “unless the person’s civil rights have been restored by a pardon from the Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”
The final allegations of the suit state, “15. As noted above, Charles Fred Miller has been convicted of a felony. 16. Miller has not received a pardon from the Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. 17. Therefore, Miller is ineligible to hold the office of Mayor for the City of Grayson.”
Miller’s plea deal, in US District Court, presided over by district judge David L. Bunning, shows that the government dismissed three counts against him, convicting him of three counts of secreting and obstructing mail, a violation under title 18 section 1702 of federal law.
Mandatory drug testing in Miller’s case was suspended, based on a low risk of substance abuse, but he did have his rights to possess firearms and ammunition restricted. He was sentenced to three years of probation rather than incarceration, with six months of home detention as an additional term of that probation deal.
Though the “maximum statutory punishment on (the counts) is imprisonment for not more than five years,” Miller never spent any time behind bars. The section of Kentucky law that defines a felony, and would therefore disqualify Miller’s candidacy, falls under KRS 532.020 which “designates felony offenses as anything that provides a term of imprisonment for more than one year.”
Contacted for comment over the weekend Miller said he was unaware of the filing and that he would refrain from further public comment until he had spoken with his attorney.
Doucet, responding via instant message to requests for comment, gave the following statement:
“First, it is a legitimate legal question whether Mr. Miller is qualified to hold public office. Second, I asked Mr. Miller about the issue, his felony conviction, and how he was qualified to hold office after a public meeting. He failed to answer my question and was unresponsive to my inquiry. In addition, he made offensive and unfounded allegations that spurred me to file the petition.”
Doucet directed any further requests for comment to his attorney, Justin Criswell.
Criswell kept his comments brief. “After minimal investigation legal basis for his disqualification was found,” Criswell said. “Those can be found in the exhibits attached to the suit.”
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