Harless: Dialogue About Keeton Must Involve State
By West Kentucky Star Staff
PADUCAH - Mayor Brandi Harless has elaborated on her part of the recent discussions regarding a letter written by City Commissioner Richard Abraham, which he claims was, "hijacked," and not sent to state officials.

The letter written on city letterhead August 19 to Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Secretary John Tilley and Gov. Matt Bevin regarding concerns about escapes from the Keeton Correction Facility wasn't sent, and members of the City Commission discussed it at length at their last meeting.

Abraham said Monday that the letter was not intended to speak on behalf of the city, but was a follow-up from discussions he's had with Tilley since December of last year. He gave an update on what the city has been discussing and attached an emergency ordinance passed on August 28 that gives the city more oversight regarding the facility.

On Friday, Harless told West Kentucky Star that City Manager Jim Arndt had mailed a letter to Tilley on August 30 - along with a copy of the ordinance - prior to distribution of Abraham's letter to everyone the next day. 

Harless said some commissioners expressed discomfort at the style of the letter.

"A lot of it was discomfort in pointing fingers with the state, not really knowing if they had complied with what they had said they would, things like that," she said. 

Harless said a couple of weeks went by, and then she and several others traveled to Washington, D.C. to advocate for the area with federal officials. 

On September 25, Harless said she sent Abraham an email apologizing for the delay, but saying that most commissioners were uneasy about the letter. So, she proposed he send a letter inviting Tilley and others to come to Paducah to discuss the issues face-to-face. 

"I did apologize for the delay. I did not do that intentionally, it was just a timing issue. So, I'm hoping that Commissioner Abraham and I can sit down and kinda make sure we are on the same page with this, because this issue is bigger than the two of us." Harless said. 

Regarding opinions expressed by candidates at a Chamber of Commerce forum on Thursday morning, Harless said nothing stood out to her as an immediate solution to the problem. 

"I think all of the thoughts and ideas need to come to the table. I think this is a very complicated conversation that is bigger than the city of Paducah. This is about justice reform in general, this is about how we are going to process our inmates and our parolees and how we're going to help them get back on their feet. So, I don't think this is just a binary decision - whether you tear the place down or you keep it -  there's a lot of things that can be done to improve it," Harless said. 

She added that in the last week, city leaders have begun getting information from 911 reports regarding any calls about Keeton Corrections, so increased communication between officials is beginning to happen. 

Harless said, "I think we're on the right track, but I think we have a lot more to learn, and I don't think we can do that without Commissioner (James) Erwin (Dept. of Corrections) and Secretary Tilley at the table with us."

She added, "We've spent the last week talking about a letter. We need to spend the next week talking about how to engage in the conversation with the state. They have to be a part of the solution. They know way more than we do about the options available. They are the ones in the contract with Keeton. So we have to have them at the table."

The City Commission will meet again on Tuesday, October 9.

On the Net:

Complete interview on Greg Dunker Show podcast page

Published 01:39 PM, Friday Oct. 05, 2018
Updated 05:57 AM, Friday Oct. 12, 2018

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