New youth court prosector to be named as Harper’s status remains unclear
Published 2:15 pm Tuesday, October 20, 2020
While the Warren County Board of Supervisors awaits an Attorney General’s opinion on the validity of County Prosecutor Ken Harper’s resignation and then rescinding it later, one Warren County judge is moving ahead with plans to appoint a new prosecutor.
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 Tuesday after supervisors also voted to withhold Harper’s pay until the AG’s opinion is received and supervisors make an ultimate decision on his fate. “He will not handle any youth court cases in my court in the interim.”
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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.
Not only is the county seeking an opinion whether Harper can rescind his resignation, it is also asking whether the Board of Supervisors is even the correct legal authority to have first received Harper’s resignation.
County Attorney Blake Teller said after Tuesday’s decision by supervisors to seek an opinion and withhold Harper’s pay, that the county would seek an expedited response, which could still take weeks.
Warren County Board of Supervisors President Dr. Jeff Holland said Harper has been kept up-to-date on the board’s discussions. Calls left with Harper by The Post for comment were not returned.
Harper was elected county prosecutor Nov. 11, 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 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.”