Jessamine County human-resource director Evelyn Smith has been cleared by a special prosecuting attorney of the alleged fourth-degree assault charges made by dispatcher Michael Hurst.
Hurst, a retired police officer of 20 years, filed a criminal complaint against Smith in Jessamine County Attorney Brian Goettl’s office after he said Smith was attacked him Friday, May 25, in the first-floor hallway of the county courthouse.
Attorney Mark Metcalf of Garrard County was selected by the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General to be an independent investigator into the allegations.
His conclusion was issued Oct. 12 and stated an “assault did not occur between Hurst and Smith and that there is no basis for any other criminal charge under Kentucky law.”
In the criminal complaint filed in May, Hurst stated he and his wife, Katherine, went to see Smith in her office concerning retirement forms.
When they were informed the paperwork was not finished, a “frustrated” Michael Hurst suggested they should take the issue to Judge-Executive Neal Cassity.
This is when Smith allegedly became “enraged” and grabbed Hurst’s right arm tore his shirt as he tried to pull away, the complaint states.
In the grievance, Hurst states Smith’s assault was “clearly a direct retaliation” for his support of former Jessamine County EMS Lt. Tina Griggs in Griggs’ unemployment hearings and claims of sexual harassment against the county’s EMS chief, Jerry Domidion.
Metcalf’s report gives a different account of the incident from Smith.
“Responding to Mrs. Hurst’s frustration, Mrs. Smith stepped into the hallway, explaining her workload and the absence of a needed form,” the report states. “(Smith) attempted to assure both that she had not forgotten Katherine’s case. Mr. Hurst was not satisfied by this and determined to leave. As he turned, Mrs. Smith, at the same time, reached to pat his shoulder. Her left hand fingers, instead of touching Mr. Hurst’s shoulder, caught the hem of his T-shirt sleeve and she heard the fabric rip and stretch from Mr. Hurst’s pulling away.”
Between July 19 and Aug. 7, Metcalf interviewed seven witnesses, including Hurst and Smith.
The five other witnesses were Becky Arvin, Holly Wilson, Katherine Hurst, Perry “Buddy” Teater and Tiffany Shewmaker — all county government employees.
The only other person to witness the incident besides the Hursts and Smith was clerk Perry Teater. The other three witnesses only saw Hurst immediately after the alleged assault.
However, according to Metcalf’s report, “all witnesses, regardless of their location in the courthouse, heard Michael Hurst loudly cry out, ‘Don’t put your hands on me. I’ll sue you and this county.’ Though none agree on the exact words, all heard similar declarations.”
Teater’s observations capture an outsider’s view of the incident — “upon leaving the men’s restroom closest to the county clerk’s office, Teater saw Mr. and Mrs. Hurst and Mrs. Smith standing in the hallway outside Smith’s office.”
Teater was unable to hear any conversation and did not see anything that suggested a dispute, the report states.
Teater told Metcalf that just before he reached the office entrance, he heard a loud male voice claim, “This has gone on long enough. Don’t put your hands on me. I’ll sue you. I’m going to the judge’s office.”
But Teater said he neither saw nor heard anything after these statements that indicated a violent gesture.
Metcalf’s report concluded that the sole harm to Hurst was the stretched T-shirt.
“The accidental or inadvertent manner that led to its damage can be remedied by restoring its value to Mr. Hurst,” the report states. “However, it is the intention of the special prosecutor that any payment in cash or kind from Mrs. Smith to Mr. Hurst, done in reliance on this opinion, is without admission of liability and is intended to settle and avoid further dispute between these persons.”
Despite the conclusion by Metcalf, there is still a possibility of a civil suit, of which Goettl would not comment.
“It is still my hope that this matter would be appropriately resolved in the criminal system instead of a civil lawsuit,” said Hurst’s attorney, Robert Cowan. “But so far it has not.”
Cowan did not say there would be a civil lawsuit in response to Metcalf conclusion but that he disagreed with Metcalf’s findings and wanted to know why there had been no disciplinary action he was aware of by the fiscal court against Smith.
“As far as the formal grievance, at a minimum this was prepared in consultation with the plaintiffs’ attorney,” Goettl said after the allegations were made in May. “Combined with (Hurst’s) threat to sue the county, we are preparing for litigation.”