Kentucky Supreme Court removes J.S. Flynn from office

Mar. 14—The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Thursday to officially remove Pulaski County Circuit Court Clerk J.S. Flynn from his office.

This not only affects the current administration of the office, but potentially affects the upcoming election for that office, as Flynn is the only candidate currently running.

Flynn has been on paid leave since March 2022, when two complaints were filed against him. One was from a Circuit Clerk's Office employee who accused Flynn of inappropriate workplace behavior, including an incident in which she reported that Flynn sexually assaulted her in a vehicle during a lunch outing.

The other complaint was filed by Ashley Haste, an administrative support specialist for the Pulaski District Court, in which she related an incident where she attempted to retrieve some documents from an office in the Circuit Court Clerk's area which were behind a closed door. Flynn and other staff were holding a meeting, and when Haste opened the door to retrieve the documents, Flynn became irate, yelled at Haste to get out of the office and used obscenities with her.

During the May 2023 evidentiary hearing in this matter, Special Commissioner Jean Chenault Logue heard testimony that indicated Flynn yelled "Get the f — out of my office."

In July 2023, Logue released her recommendation to the Supreme Court in which she concluded that Flynn should be removed from his position.

In her report, Logue noted that Flynn "engaged in conduct that created a hostile and offensive work environment" for at least one employee, and "began unwanted flirtatious actions" with her.

"Office romantic relationships are not prohibited by the Personnel Policies. However [Kentucky Courts of Justice] elected officials must proceed with great caution to ensure that Personnel Policies are carefully followed," Logue noted.

In their opinion released Thursday, the Supreme Court justices agreed that Flynn's behavior resulted in a hostile work environment.

They also found that he "engaged in quid pro quo harassment" by noting that when a sexual relationship between Flynn and one of his employees ended, Flynn "changed the conditions of her employment" by refusing to speak with her and referring to her using derogatory terms."

During the May 2023 hearing, Flynn denied that he had acted inappropriately with any of his employees.

The Supreme Court also stated that Flynn failed to perform his duties with courtesy and respect when he had the altercation with Haste.

In their opinion, the Court stated: "Flynn acknowledges the incident [with Haste] occurred, and we conclude it was unquestionably a blatant violation of his obligation to perform his duties with courtesy and respect. His failure to do so reflected poorly not only on himself, but also unfortunately on the judiciary he was elected to serve. While perhaps insufficient alone to warrant the severe sanction of removal, when considered together with Flynn's other conduct at issue in this case it nonetheless further supports our conclusion that removal is required."

The Court concluded its opinion by stating: "While we acknowledge the gravity of removal of an elected official from office, and the severity of such a sanction, we nonetheless find removal warranted here. As such, we hereby remove Flynn from the office of the Pulaski Circuit Court Clerk for the remainder of his term. The Office of the Pulaski Circuit Court Clerk is declared vacant."

How this will affect the office and the upcoming election is still uncertain at this point.

Flynn, a Republican candidate, is currently the only person who is running for the office in either political party during the Primary Election. That election will be held on May 21.

To run for this position, a person must pass a Special Circuit Court Clerk Exam administered by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC).

Pulaski Elections Coordinator Mark Vaught said that test was conducted back in December. Flynn was the only person who passed the test to then go on and file to be a candidate.

Vaught said that one other person passed the test, but decided against filing.

The Commonwealth Journal has reached out to the AOC asking about whether the ruling would affect Flynn's ability to run for office, as well as what the procedure for filling the position would be from this point forward.

The AOC had not returned that information by presstime Thursday.

Vaught noted that to fill the position before the November General Election, the AOC would likely follow the same procedure that took place when former clerk George Flynn retired.

George Flynn, grandfather of J.S. Flynn, resigned from the position in 2016, two years before the end of his term.

The AOC held a special examination and appointed J.S. Flynn to the office. Flynn then successfully ran for the office in 2018.

Since J.S. Flynn's removal, the Pulaski Circuit Clerk's Office has been run by special appointees — Circuit Clerks from other counties.

The current appointee is Adair County Circuit Court Clerk Dennis Loy.

Carla Slavey can be reached at cslavey@somerset-kentucky.com