Confusion over Harper’s resignation continues as supervisors seek opinion from Attorney General
Published 9:44 am Tuesday, October 20, 2020
The Warren County Board of Supervisors — after two days and two executive sessions — have decided to seek more information on how to handle the confusing situation involving County Prosecutor Ken Harper resigned in September and then rescinded that resignation days later.
Following Tuesday’s executive session, supervisors approved County Attorney Blake Teller to seek an Attorney General’s opinion on the legality of Harper’s resignation and if he is able to rescind the resignation. Also, the county is seeking whether the Board of Supervisors even has the authority to receive an elected county official’s resignation.
Teller was asked to gather the information before any board decision is finalized.
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Supervisors also agreed to withhold payment to Harper until the AG’s opinion is received and the board makes its decision.
Harper, like other county officials, is paid monthly.
Warren County Judge Marcie Southerland, who was part of two recent executive sessions supervisors held Monday and Tuesday discussing Harper’s moves in September, said she has the statutory authority to appoint a county prosecutor while Harper’s status is in limbo.
“Out of an abundance of caution, I will be appointing a youth court prosecutor,” Southerland said. “He will not handle any youth court cases in my court in the interim.”
As county prosecuting attorney, Harper serves as prosecutor for criminal cases in the county, justice and youth courts. He also represents the state in cases appealed from the county court to circuit court.
Harper was elected county prosecutor Nov. 11, 2019 defeating then-incumbent Ricky Johnson and challenger Stephen McMillin.
He resigned from the position Sept. 14 in a one-sentence letter to the Warren County Board of Supervisors: “Please accept this letter as my resignation as Warren County Prosecuting Attorney effective September 14, 2020, at 5:00 p.m. Sincerely, Ken Harper.” No reason was given.
The board planned to discuss Harper’s resignation at its Sept. 21 meeting but removed the item from its agenda after receiving a letter from him rescinding his resignation. “I regret any disruption and confusion I might have caused,” he wrote in the letter.
“I acted in haste,” Harper said later. “I’ve had some conversations with some people I should have had before I took the action I did. If I had, the whole episode wouldn’t have happened. It was just basically my fault. I should have talked to some people before I did it instead of after.”
Warren County Board of Supervisors President Dr. Jeff Holland said Harper was notified and kept up-to-date of the supervisors’ discussions.