Dispute Settled Over Child Support Fees

Ex-county attorney will receive $1.4 M

BY RAY SCHAEFER
Enquirer Contributor

COVINGTON - Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmonson needed just three words Thursday to describe why he settled a dispute with former county attorney John Elfers over more than $1 million in delinquent child-support incentive fees.

"Because I lost," Mr. Edmonson said.

The settlement ended a dispute that began when Mr. Elfers left office at the end of 1993. With interest, Mr. Elfers receives just under $1.4 million from an account held by the circuit court clerk and Mr. Elfers will pay Mr. Edmonson $102,934 and change.

"Everything's over except a little piece of paperwork, in my opinion," said Robert Carran, Mr. Elfers' attorney. "It's been a long journey. John's glad that it's over."

The money in dispute came from application fees people paid to have child-support collected, interest and a 3 percent fee levied against each case. A federal program created in the 1970s allowed incentive payments so local collection authorities would more vigorously pursue delinquent child-support cases.

Mr. Edmonson said the fact that Special Circuit Judge John Minton and the state Court of Appeals both ruled against him were factors in his decision to settle the case now. He also said Mr. Elfers and Mr. Carran were generous in offering the settlement.

"The handwriting was on the wall," Mr. Edmonson said. "It was a matter of getting the best (deal) I could. I still think I'm right, the judges think otherwise."

Mr. Elfers, who lost to Mr. Edmonson in the 1993 Democratic primary, earned the incentive money over 17 years. When Mr. Elfers left office, he took about $964,000 with him.

Kenton County and Mr. Edmonson claimed Mr. Elfers was entitled to only $256,788.

Mr. Edmonson could have appealed to the state Supreme Court. Mr. Carran said future litigation, more than generosity, was a factor in negotiating the settlement now.

"Garry still had an appeal left," Mr. Carran said. "Fortunately, we were able to reach a basic meeting of the minds."

Mr. Elfers still faces a misdemeanor charge of mixing private and public money, a charge that carries a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a $250 fine. A hearing before Boone Circuit Judge Michael Collins is scheduled for April 27.

"I expect it to be dismissed voluntarily either on the day of the hearing or beforehand," Mr. Carran said. "I believe the Kentucky Court of Appeals decision resolved the issue in favor of Mr. Elfers."

Dave McKnight of the state Attorney General's Office in Frankfort, who is handling the misdemeanor case, could not be reached for comment. Mr. Edmonson said he could not comment because he did not start the proceedings.