NOLAN (TIMOTHY), ET AL. VS. CAMPBELL COUNTY FISCAL COURT , ET AL.Annotate this Case
RENDERED: NOVEMBER 24, 2010; 10:00 A.M.
TO BE PUBLISHED
Commonwealth of Kentucky
Court of Appeals
TIMOTHY NOLAN AND
APPEAL AND CROSS-APPEAL FROM CAMPBELL CIRCUIT COURT
HONORABLE ROGER L. CRITTENDEN, SPECIAL JUDGE
ACTION NO. 08-CI-01308
CAMPBELL COUNTY FISCAL COURT;
CAMPBELL COUNTY PROPERTY
ADMINISTRATOR, DANIEL BRAUN;
CAMPBELL COUNTY SHERIFF, JOHN
DUNN; CAMPBELL COUNTY CLERK,
JACK SNODGRASS; CAMPBELL
STEVE PENDERY; COMMISSIONER
MARK HAYDEN; COMMISSIONER
KENNETH RECHTIN; AND
COMMISSIONER DAVID OTTO
REVERSING IN PART AND
AFFIRMING IN PART
** ** ** ** **
BEFORE: ACREE AND NICKELL, JUDGES; HARRIS,1 SENIOR JUDGE.
ACREE, JUDGE: The Appellants, Timothy and Julia Nolan, seek reversal of the
Campbell Circuit Court’s order granting partial summary judgment to the
Appellees, the Campbell County Fiscal Court and other Campbell County officials
(hereinafter referred to collectively as the “Fiscal Court”). The Nolans allege that
the circuit court erred when it declined to order the offices of the Campbell County
Clerk, Property Valuation Administrator (PVA), and Sheriff to be located solely in
Alexandria, Kentucky, at the Alexandria Courthouse. In addition to requesting that
this court order those offices to be located in Alexandria, they also insist that the
Campbell County Courthouse must be located in Alexandria. The Nolans also ask
this court to find that the Fiscal Court may not spend funds collected via the court
fee tax. Further, they aver that ordinances adopted by the Fiscal Court are void
because notice regarding the ordinances was insufficient and the ordinances were
improperly drafted. However, the Nolans agree with the circuit court’s conclusion
that Alexandria is the county seat of Campbell County. The Fiscal Court crossappeals on this issue asserting that Newport is also a county seat. We affirm the
circuit court’s decision to dismiss the Nolans’ claims and reverse the court’s
determination that Newport is not a county seat.
Senior Judge William R. Harris concurred in this opinion prior to the expiration of his term of
Senior Judge service on October 19, 2010. Release of this opinion was delayed by
To best address the parties’ arguments, we must first consider the history of
In 1795 James Taylor, Sr., conveyed a tract of land in
Newport ‘known as the public square,’ to the justices of
the peace of Campbell county [sic] and their successors,
upon condition that Newport should be the county seat
and the land used for public buildings. The county seat
was then located in Newport.
Comm’rs for Courthouse Dist. of Campbell County v. City of Newport, 29 Ky. L.
Rptr. 649, 94 S.W. 629, 629 (1906). A courthouse was built in Newport and
housed the county government until 1815, when a new courthouse was built in the
However, in the December Session of 1839, the General Assembly passed
an act creating Kenton County from land, part of which, was formerly located in
Campbell County. (1840 Kentucky Acts [Ky. Acts] ch. 175, §§ 881-89). The
1840 Act also required appointed commissioners to locate the county seats for
Campbell and Kenton County. Id. at § 4. The commissioners were not permitted
to select any community as a county seat but were mandated to locate the seat as
close to the center of the county “as the face of the country” would permit. Id. at §
1. As a result of the 1840 Act, Alexandria was named a county seat. Comm’rs for
Courthouse Dist. of Campbell County, 94 S.W. at 629 (1906).
After identifying Alexandria as a county seat, the General Assembly passed
numerous acts ensuring that certain government functions would occur in
The county seat at Alexandria being inconvenient to the
people of Newport and adjacent towns, the Legislature,
by the act of February 27, 1856 (Acts 1855-56, p. 41, c. 204),
December 19, 1857 (Acts 1857-58, p. 3, c. 6), February 21, 1863
(Acts 1861-63, p. 491, c. 875), and February 26, 1863 (Acts
1861-63, p. 495, c. 880), provided that the circuit judge and
county judge should hold their courts, and the clerks thereof,
respectively, have their offices in the city of Newport at such
place as that city might provide; that the city pay the expenses
of holding courts there and provide the necessary offices.
Id. Under the acts, the city of Newport provided and maintained suitable buildings
for these purposes. Id. However,
the Legislature, by acts of April 17, 1882 (Acts 1881-82,
p. 569, c. 1107) and March 13, 1886 (Acts 1885-86, p.
667, c. 232), known as the “Courthouse Acts,” created a
district of a part of the county known as the “Courthouse
District,” for the purpose of building and maintaining a
new courthouse on the public square of Newport for the
use of the courts and officers of the county, to issue
bonds for such purposes, to pay certain county
governmental expenses incurred in the district, and to
levy taxes for payment of same.
Id. As a result of these acts and additional “Courthouse Acts” passed thereafter,
the county government conducts business both in Newport and in Alexandria.
Over time, the state court system transitioned all of its operations to facilities in
Several years ago, Campbell County devised a plan to move the Campbell
County Clerk, County Sheriff, and Property Valuation Administrator out of the
Campbell County Courthouse in Newport, and to consolidate them with other
The location of Kentucky Court of Justice facilities is not at issue in this case and is governed
by KRS Chapter 26.
county offices into a single building devoted to county administration.
Construction on a new county administration building began in 2008.
Soon after, House Bill 103 (2008) was prefiled in the Kentucky General
Assembly. The legislative history of the bill, enacted as Kentucky Acts 2008, ch.
27 §1 (hereafter H.B.103) can be found most readily at
http://www.lrc.ky.gov/record/08rs/HB103.htm. As prefiled, the bill would have
repealed the Courthouse Acts. However, as its history indicates, the legislature
amended the bill, removing language that would have repealed the Courthouse
Acts, choosing instead to allow only the taxing authority contained in those Acts to
sunset with passage of H.B.103. As enacted, and in addition to revoking any
taxing authority afforded the courthouse commission, the legislation removed the
requirement that the Courthouse District provide offices for city and county
Pursuant to H.B. 103, then, the commissioners are no longer required to provide
free space for the county and city. H.B. 103 did not remove the requirement that
certain functions of the county continue to take place in Newport, nor did it
prohibit the courthouse district from providing space for the city or county.
With this history in mind, we turn to the issues presented in this case. The
Nolans seek injunctive relief and mandamus ordering the County Clerk, Sheriff,
and PVA to be located at the county seat in Alexandria, Kentucky, and vacated
from the Fiscal Court Administration Building in Newport. Indeed, they assert that
these offices must be located in the historic Alexandria Courthouse. Further they
ask this court to determine
A) Whether Campbell County Fiscal Court’s ordinances
were improperly drafted, summarized, reviewed and
advertised; thereby rendering all ordinances from January
1999 to the present null, void and of no effect. The
Campbell County Fiscal Court made no effort to comply
with KRS 67.075, KRS 67.077, KRS 67.090 and Chapter
424 of the KRS requiring the drafting and advertising of
all ordinances be in statutory compliance;
B) Whether the Fiscal Court conducts improper illegal
meeting [sic] not properly advertised outside the county
seat, and a determination of the consequences of said
improper notice of meetings and thereby the validity of
C) Whether the Fiscal Court is improperly collecting
taxes and fees; whether the County officials are liable for
their actions; [and]
D) Whether Appellants are entitled to court costs and
(Appellants’ Brief at I).
The circuit court determined that Alexandria and not Newport is the county
seat, but granted summary judgment in favor of the Fiscal Court on each of the
other issues. We review the circuit court’s grants of summary judgment de novo.
Deaton v. Connecticut General Life Ins. Co., 17 S.W. 3d 896, 898 (Ky. App.
The Nolans’ arguments rely on the assumption that Newport is not a county
seat. Thus, the central issue that must be addressed in this case is where the county
seat of Campbell County is located. At the outset, we note that although the term
“county seat” is used in several statutes, it is not defined. See, e.g., KRS 132.410,
KRS 67.035. Prior to the adoption of Section 59 of the Kentucky Constitution
(Ky. Const.) in 1891, the General Assembly had the power to remove a county
seat. See Hall v. Marshall, 4 Ky. L. Rptr. 502, 80 Ky. 552 (1882). After 1891, the
power to remove a county seat was vested in the people. Ky. Const. § 64. Because
there is no indication that a vote of the people moved the county seat from
Alexandria to Newport after 1891, we must consider if an act of the General
Assembly prior to 1891 affected the location, or locations, of the county seat.
While we agree with the circuit court that no action has resulted in the
removal of the county seat from Alexandria to Newport, Newport appears to this
Court to have become a county seat in addition to Alexandria. Because there is no
statutory definition for “county seat” we must consider its ordinary meaning. In
doing so, it becomes clear that the location of county seats prior to 1891 must be
determined by considering the location where county officials performed their
duties, as appears to have been the practice then, and even now.3
The term “county seat” is not rigidly defined. Webster’s indicates that a
“county seat” is “the town that is the seat of county administration.” Retrieved
from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/county%20seat. “[T]he words
‘county seat’ are often used to designate the courthouse, jail, and other public
buildings belonging to the county, and are used in this sense in the Constitution
when it provides for the removal of the county seat, and are also so used in some
Footnote 4, infra.
statutes.” City of Middlesborough v. City of Pineville, 30 Ky. L. Rptr. 331, 98
S.W. 298, 299 (Ky. 1906). The term “county seat” is also defined as “the town or
city in which the seat of a county government is located, where the county court
and other courts are held, and where the county officers perform their duties and
functions.” 20 C.J.S. Counties § 75.
In Campbell County, Newport was regarded as the county seat until
1840 and the duties and functions of county government have been performed
there since the late 1700s. While the political underpinnings of the establishment
of Alexandria as a county seat are irrelevant here, it is sufficient to note that the
1840 decision was not based upon a referendum. However, the river town of
Newport remained a hub of commerce and government as evinced by the General
Assembly’s adoption of the Courthouse Acts.
While the Courthouse Acts did not expressly indicate that the General
Assembly intended Newport to replace Alexandria as the county seat, we cannot
ignore the obvious intention that county business be conducted both in Newport
and in Alexandria. The Courthouse Acts expressly require such activities to occur
in both towns. Specifically, the Acts require that the county judge and clerks
thereof hold an office in Newport. See Comm’rs for Courthouse Dist. of
Campbell County, 94 S.W. at 629. Considered in context of the ordinary meaning
of “county seat” as set forth above, the Courthouse Acts and the government
activities that had occurred in Newport for decades preceding the adoption of our
current constitution provide a sufficient basis upon which to conclude that the
legislature intended Newport, as well as Alexandria, to serve as a county seat prior
to 1891. Indeed this court is not alone in reaching the conclusion that Newport is
today one of Campbell County’s “county seats.”4
Currently in Campbell County, county business is carried out in both
Newport and Alexandria. Indeed, the county is required to conduct certain
activities in both places. The Courthouse Acts make clear which activities are
required to be conducted in both locations and the acts were not repealed. Since
the legislature consciously chose to refrain from repealing those acts, we are
compelled to conclude that those activities must continue to occur in Newport.
Because Newport became a county seat before 1891, and because after that
date the county’s residents have not voted to eliminate either Newport or
Alexandria as a county seat, the Nolans’ arguments regarding the location of the
clerk, sheriff, and PVA’s office fail. The Nolans’ remaining arguments are
As noted by the circuit court, pursuant to KRS 23A.220 and 24A.185, the
Fiscal Court is authorized to collect “additional fees and costs for the purpose of
paying expenses for courthouses, bonds related to them, and administration
expenses.” Nolan v. Campbell County Fiscal Court, No. 08-CI-01308 (Campbell
Kentucky’s Land Office indicates that Newport is a county seat. Kentucky Secretary of State,
Land Office, http://apps.sos.ky.gov/land/cities/citydetail.asp?id=290&city=Newport&idctr=290.
Also, THE KENTUCKY BICENTENNIAL COMMISSION, THE KENTUCKY ENCYCLOPEDIA 680 (John E. Kleber et
al. eds., University Press of Kentucky, 1992) available at
http://www.kyenc.org/entry/n/NEWPO01.html indicates that Newport and Alexandria are both
county seats. Likewise, the National Association of Counties lists Newport as a county seat of
Campbell County. NAOC, http://www.naco.org/research/data/Pages/CountySeats.aspx; see also
THE CLARK GROUP, THE KENTUCKY DIRECTORY, GOLD BOOK 396 (2009-2010 ed.) (identifying
Newport as the county seat of Campbell County, Kentucky).
Circuit Ct., May 12, 2009)(Order granting partial summary judgment). The Nolans
do not present any evidence that these funds have been used for an improper
purpose. Further, the Fiscal Court has the discretion to use the funds for
administration expenses and courthouse expenses which are not necessarily limited
to the courthouse in Alexandria. As the circuit court noted, “[t]his issue is better
left to the required audits of county expenditures.” Id. Like the circuit court,
“[a]bsent some specific demonstration that the statutes are being violated, this
Court does not intend to involve itself in micro-managing the affairs of local
While the Nolans assert that the circuit court failed to consider the issue
regarding whether ordinances were properly drafted, the circuit court, in fact, did
declare such allegations speculative. On appeal, the Nolans fail to present any
evidence that the ordinances were not properly drafted or that the county did not
comply with the notice requirements of KRS 67.090 (1).
In January of 2007, the “Fiscal Court adopted Resolution R-01-07 . . .
establishing the regular meetings for the Fiscal Court for the years 2007, 2008,
2009, and 2010 to be held on the first Wednesdays of the month at Alexandria and
the third Wednesdays of the month in Newport.” Nolan v. Campbell County
Fiscal Court, No. 08-CI-01308 (Campbell Circuit Ct., May 12, 2009) (Order
granting partial summary judgment). This resolution was made in compliance with
Chapter 880, Section 1 of the 1864 Acts which require the county court to meet
twelve times annually in the City of Newport. The Nolans’ brief avers merely that
the county “may not have advertised the Resolution.” (Appellants’ Brief at 23).
However, they present no evidence to support this assertion. Furthermore, because
we find Newport, like Alexandria, is a county seat, the additional requirement of
publication is not required.
For the reasons stated above, the Fiscal Court must continue to conduct
county activities in Newport, a Campbell County seat of government, as required
by the Courthouse Acts. Those acts, passed at a time when the Legislature had the
authority to move the county seat, evince the intention to create an additional
county seat in Campbell County. Should the citizens of Campbell County be
dissatisfied with this result, they now have the authority to vote on the issue and
decide the matter for themselves. See Ky. Const. § 64.
The decision of the circuit court is reversed in part and affirmed in part.
HARRIS, SENIOR JUDGE, CONCURS.
NICKELL, JUDGE, DISSENTS IN PART AND FILES SEPARATE
NICKELL, JUDGE, DISSENTING IN PART: Respectfully, I would affirm
the trial court’s grant of summary judgment that Alexandria is the county seat of
Campbell County, insofar as the county was created by the General Assembly of
Kentucky in 1795; the county seat, though originally located at Newport, was
established at Alexandria pursuant to an act of the Kentucky Legislature in 1840;
and there is no evidence that this designation of Alexandria as the county seat of
Campbell County has ever been formally changed. Certainly, as noted by the
majority, the citizens of Campbell County do have authority to vote on the issue
and decide the matter for themselves, but they have never done so. Ky. Const. §
I do concur with the remainder of the majority opinion as it relates to
the remaining issues. Based upon the legislative history specifically relating to
Campbell County, it appears the General Assembly has carved out sufficient
special allowances and/or exceptions which, together with other statutory law,
authorize the actions taken by the Campbell County Fiscal Court. Therefore, I
would likewise affirm the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of
Campbell County on these remaining issues.
BRIEF AND ORAL ARGUMENT
FOR APPELLANTS AND CROSSAPPELLEES:
BRIEFS AND ORAL ARGUMENT
FOR APPELLEES AND CROSSAPPELLANTS:
Robert E. Blau
Cold Springs, Kentucky
Jeffrey C. Mando