About the Fayette County Attorney's Offie
What is a county attorney?
Every county in Kentucky has an elected County Attorney (there are 120 of us) who serves a four (4) year term. Every County Attorney is employed on a part-time basis. This works very well for most offices because the case load in many counties is small enough to not require a full-time prosecutor, and this allows any County Attorney who wishes to do so to maintain a private practice.
A question that is frequently asked is what is the difference between the County Attorney and the Commonwealth’s Attorney. The Commonwealth’s Attorney in Lexington is Lou Anna Red Corn, and her responsibility is to prosecute all felony offenses that are indicted by the Fayette County Grand Jury. A felony is any crime that has a punishment of one (1) year or more in the penitentiary, and these serious criminal cases are held to the Grand Jury from the Fayette District Court in a proceeding called a Preliminary Hearing.
DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE FAYETTE COUNTY ATTORNEY
Every criminal offense committed against the laws of Kentucky, which occurs in Fayette County, is processed through the County Attorney’s Office. Last year this office handled over 40,000 cases. This includes all felony and misdemeanor cases both in our adult and juvenile courts. In addition, we also prosecute all of the traffic violations which are charged in Fayette County. Those cases were well over 43,000 in 2006. I have a staff of retired law enforcement officers whose responsibility it is to assist citizens in Lexington who wish to file a criminal complaint. This is a mandatory legal procedure required to initiate a criminal charge and our trained professionals are available from 8:30 – 4:30 Monday through Friday to aid all victims of crimes.
D. N. A. (DEPENDENCY, NEGLECT AND ABUSE)
A very important responsibility of our office is our representation of the County in all of the Dependency, Neglect and Abuse cases that involve children in Fayette County. These cases, which are commonly referred to as “DNA” and are heard in our Family Court, will rip at your heart. However, it becomes one of the most gratifying court processes when children are protected, parents are provided with important parenting skills, and families are redirected in positive, healthy and safe directions.
Domestic Violence is a tremendous point of focus of our entire office. This societal problem is given a priority by our staff, not only in prosecution but in our efforts to educate women and children about their right to have a violent free life. We have a staff of excellent victims’ advocates who work tirelessly with individuals who live in abusive relationships.
For the business community in Lexington our office provides a service of immeasurable assistance through the collection of returned checks. Since 2006, our office has collected and returned thousands of dollars to merchants. This program is also very helpful to the individual who did not have any criminal intent, but who has given a check which was returned because of insufficient funds. By our efforts, we are able to collect the check and the individual is not criminally prosecuted.
Diversion has been a well-recognized and utilized program by prosecutors throughout Kentucky for over twenty years.
Our office has a quality Diversion Program in which we carefully screen individuals who have committed a non-violent offense. If that person is willing to enter Diversion, they must enter a guilty plea, make total restitution to any victim, and perform up to ninety (90) hours of community service. We may also require them to receive alcohol or drug counseling, parenting classes or other forms of counseling.
Once all the requirements are completed, the conviction is expunged from the record. It is very important, and we make it very clear to each individual who participates in Diversion, that there is only one chance ever given for this privilege. My personal philosophy is that many people who commit minor criminal offenses are young and don’t think about the many consequences a criminal conviction will have on their future, particularly with regard to their education and employment.
The community service which is provided to agencies throughout Fayette County is extremely beneficial. For example, in the first six months that I served as County Attorney, our program generated 25,290 hours of free community service to over 39 different agencies. Every individual who completes the program obtains a better understanding of the importance of being a good citizen, and I believe the whole community benefits.
An important responsibility of the County Attorney is the collection of delinquent property taxes. This office is presently under contract with the Kentucky Department of Revenue/Finance and Administration Cabinet to enforce and collect delinquent property taxes, including assessments on real property, tangible (personal property), and public service commission tax bills.
This is performed by notifying the taxpayer of the delinquency and giving them ample opportunity to pay this tax debt without litigation. If payment in full is not possible, a payment plan can be arranged. If the taxpayer continues to ignore or refuses to pay the delinquent property tax, civil litigation will be pursued.
The County Attorney is also responsible for asserting tax claims in all foreclosures filed in the courts and actively litigates the case to ensure the tax claim receives its priority status.
This office is responsible for filing proofs-of-claims and monitoring bankruptcy proceedings to assert the property tax claim assessed in Fayette County and to ensure that the tax claim is properly addressed.
We work with all offices involving property taxes, including the Department of Revenue, Property Valuation Administrator, Sheriff, LFUCG, and County Clerk.
The County Attorney also represents the PVA/Board of Assessment in any local tax appeals that have been filed with the Kentucky Board of Tax Appeals.
The Director of Delinquent Property Tax Collection is Dianne McKenna. She may be reached at (859)254-4941 ext. 825.
A duty of the County Attorney is handling all mental inquests and commitment proceedings. This is a very sad but necessary court proceeding when a citizen is in need of protection because of mental instability which makes him/her a threat to their own safety.
If requested, the County Attorney is responsible for advising and, if necessary, representing all of the County Officials on legal issues which may arise.
Annually, this office collects and returns millions of dollars in child support. This is a tremendously important department in our office which has forty nine (48) employees, including seven (8) attorneys. Unfortunately, there are many non-custodial parents who, for various reasons, do not support their children. In many cases the child can receive financial aid through the state; however, the non-custodial parent is still responsible for repaying these funds. Our office diligently tries to recover these arrearages through court-ordered garnishments of wages and other means.