The Big Sandy Regional Detention Center board approved amendments to its yearly budget at its regular meeting last Thursday, citing an out-of-court settlement with previous Administrator Pete Fitzpatrick amounting to $75,000.
Treasurer Pam Burgess said there were funds available for the payment, which had already been made to settle with Fitzpatrick, who board attorney Nelson Sparks said had made known plans to sue the board for wrongful termination following his firing in April. Fitzpatrick’s firing came after an executive session lasting more than two hours.
Sparks said this settlement was simply to avoid a lengthy and costly court battle.
During that April meeting, the vote was split 5-4 to terminate Fitzpatrick, with one “No” vote being from board member Joe Mills, who said that he felt any such termination should come in the form of a contract buyout.
Fitzpatrick told The Paintsville Herald in April that he could not comment publicly about the circumstances his dismissal, but he said he would be speaking with his attorney and likely filing suit, as the dismissal might have been in violation of Fitzpatrick’s contract for employment.
“I’ve enjoyed my time. I’ve worked with some really good people, and I feel good about my accomplishments,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick said his record as BSRDC administrator includes turning around the books from an estimated $500,000 in the red to over $1 million in the black for the general fund, and having no inmate deaths in custody while other local jails cannot say the same. A recent 236-point inspection of the BSRDC, Fitzpatrick said, was passed on all but two points, both for overcrowding, a problem that is beyond the jail administrator’s control.
No reason was given in the April meeting for Fitzpatrick’s termination, but board chairperson Daniel Castle said the board had cause.
“The reason he was suspended was because of his systemic failure to following established policies and procedures, resulting in substandard and inhuman living conditions, resulting in potentially life-threatening conditions for not only the inmates but the employees also,” Castle said.
With Sparks’ approval, Castle provided The Paintsville Herald with a slideshow presented to the board in their March meeting. In addition to graffiti and broken glass, the photos, Castle said, depict black mold in multiple locations throughout the jail.
“That, in part, was what we considered to be (potentially) life-threatening,” Castle said.
During this month’s meeting, Burgess said that the funds for Fitzpatrick’s settlement payment would not negatively affect the budget, as the budget was drafted when Martin County’s approximately $250,000 payment to the board had not yet been made and that the board would simply need to amend the budget to move those funds to where they were needed and account for the extra money.
The board voted unanimously to approve this amendment.
The BSRDC board meets at 6 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Johnson County Fiscal Courtroom and all meetings are open to the public.