On Dec. 13, Henry County voters will decide whether or not alcohol by the drink will be sold in the county.
A petition calling for such a vote in New Castle, however, will not proceed, and the executive order calling for a special election has been withdrawn.
Though the Henry County Fiscal Court has no say in whether or not the special election takes place, the issue was discussed in the Oct. 18 fiscal court meeting.
During the meeting, Henry County Clerk Juanita Lashley described for the magistrates the process that brings about a local option vote, and told the court there were two petitions circulating — one for the city of New Castle, and one for the entire county.
Lashley recieved the completed New Castle petition on Sept. 27, and the completed county-wide petition on Sept. 30.
When Lashley contacted the Kentucky Board of Elections about the local option election for the New Castle petition, she got the news: becuase there had been a local option election in the Northeast New Castle precinct in July to allow alcohol sales by the drink at Henry County Country Club, there could not be such a vote in New Castle.
According to KRS 242.030 (5), “No local option election shall be held in the same territory more than once every three (3) years.”
The Northeast New Castle precinct also includes portions of the city itself. The KBE also told Lashley that the countywide petition likely wouldn’t fly either.
Henry County Attorney Virginia Harrod said that after several conversations with attorneys for the KBE and Kentucky Attorney General’s Office, “The general counsel of the state board (said)... that the three-year rule is very black and white, there is no wiggle room on it,” Harrod said. “So they feel that we can’t have the city vote because of the golf course vote on June 21. New Castle couldn’t have a (local option) vote until after June 21, 2014.”
New Castle attorney Joe Yates, who was involved with the New Castle petition, sent Harrod some case law examples that go to the heart of the issue: “How do you define a territory?”
But that case law, Harrod said, wasn’t “on point to the issue we have here.”
Harrod said that KBE attorney Mary Allen, who also had experience in the KAG’s office on the same issue, talked with other attorneys as well, and agreed that the city could not move forward with its petition. “Any aggrieved party,” Harrod said, “could file... to get (Henry Circuit Court) Judge (Karen) Conrad’s option on what is the definition of a territory.”
Allen told Harrod, however, that the golf course vote would not prevent a countywide vote. “Countywide would, in their opinion, be a different territory,” Harrod said. “That is the state board’s opinion.”
Harrod agreed, and after talking with KBE and the Kentucky League of Cities, said “the work is very compelling that the city vote cannot go forward prior to June 14, 2014, but a countywide vote would be (allowed) under case law.”
Yates disagreed, saying that the golf course election was one territory, and the city’s vote would be a different territory. “
He also argued that if the county was considered its own territory, though the Northeast New Castle precinct was part of that territory, the same rule should apply to New Castle being its own territory.
Henry County Judge Executive John Logan Brent said that he would rescind his executive order calling for the New Castle local option vote, and instead draft one for the county, on Harrod’s recommendation.