Julia Roberts Goad
PIKEVILLE, Ky. — The Pike County Fiscal Court has appointed a new board member to the Pike County Tourism Convention and Visitors Bureau, over the objection of the Eastern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
At the last meeting of Pike County Fiscal Court (PCFC), Bob Scott, a businessman from Blackberry, was nominated and voted onto the Pike County Tourism Convention and Visitors Bureau board. The McCoy well, which figures heavily in the history of the Hatfield McCoy Feud, is located on Scott’s property; Scott has allowed tourists to visit his home and the site.
Scott’s name was chosen from a list of three names submitted by Pike County Judge Executive Wayne T. Rutherford. The Fiscal Court voted unanimously to approve Scott’s appointment.
However, after the vote, Eastern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce (EKCC) President Jared Arnett addressed the Court, saying the court had overstepped its bounds.
Pike County Assistant Attorney Roland Case explained that Kentucky statute says tourism board members will be chosen from a list of three names submitted by “a local chamber of commerce. If none exists, one will be appointed by the chief executive officer representing local government.” That officer would be Judge Rutherford.
But the meaning of the term ‘local,’ as pertaining to a chamber of commerce, is at the heart of the matter.
“When this commission was formed, there was a local chamber of commerce,” Case said. ,”I reviewed the facts as I understood them. I do not think there any longer is a local chamber of commerce, there is a regional chamber. My interpretation would be that there is not a local chamber restricted to representing businesses in the jurisdiction of Pike County.”
EKCC President Arnett told the Court his organization is a local chamber, and as such has the right to submit names for appointments to the tourism board, not Judge Rutherford, and that the EKCC is taking legal action against Scott’s appointment..
“We believe we still are a local chamber of commerce,” Arnett said. ”We represent 320 businesses in Pike County. Our offices and headquarters are less than a quarter mile away from the Pike County courthouse. The statute says a chamber existing within the governmental. territory, we are definitely in the county. From our chamber perspective, we believe this is outside the legal limits. I don’t know Bob Scott, I have great respect for him, its not that I have an issue with him. Its an issue of the law. The chamber gets to make its recommendations, we would like to protest that appointment, and we will be filing suit.”
The fact that EKCC represents interests outside of Pike County, as well as the lack of representation of the eastern part of the county, was brought up by members of PCFC.
Deputy Judge John Doug Hayes pointed out that just under 200 of the EKCC’s 320 members are from outside of Pike County.
“If we had submitted the names of three members from Floyd County, under your theory, have been bound to elect, for the Pike County Tourism Commission, a Floyd Countian?” Hayes asked Arnet.
“I think that would be a completely separate issue,” Arnet answered.”I don’t think so. They are not from Pike County. We pick Pike County businesses, and Pike County business people.”
When Hayes noted that EKCC did not exclusively represent Pike County businesses, Arnet said EKCC is the only organization that is in Pike County, representing Pike businesses.
“I’m going to dispute that,” District Six Magistrate Chris Harris said. “The Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce represents a whole lot of businesses in Pike County, and Mr. Scott is a very active member of that chamber. For you to say that our EKCC is the only one that represents business in Pike County is not true, Mr. Arnett.”
Arent told PCFC that of 29 EKCC board members, 18 to 20 were from Pike County. But District Five Magistrate Hilman Dotson noted that there is no representation from the eastern part of the county on the tourism board. He said the current attention to the Hatfield McCoy Feud necessitates representation from his part of the county.
“How many from our area, where the feud happened?” Dotson said. “I know you don’t only represent Hatfield McCoy. That’s one deal we are working on right now, trying to get some local representation. This is where it happened, and we would love to have somebody over there to step up to the plate and say we want our share of the recognition.”
Deputy Judge Hayes asked Arnet about the list of names if the names EKCC submitted for appointment to the tourism board were all from Pikeville. Arnet said that two were, one was from outside city limits, but very close to the city of Pikeville.
“You did not submit a name from Pond Creek, you did not submit a name from Peter Creek or Blackberry.” Hayes said. “Until Mr. Scott was appointed there was no person from Pond Creek.”
Arnet countered that who was or was not appointed was not at issue, what was at issue was the process by which Scott was appointed to the tourism board.
“Its the Chamber’s discretion,” he said. “That’s the reason the statute was written that way, so the business community has a voice representing the businesses of Pike County, which has gotten disquieted and has no voice. Had we had this discussion, it is not to say Mr. Scott would have not been on our list. But as it stands, our list was ignored.”
“We are asking for someone to represent the backside of the county, as its been known,” Magistrate Dotson said.
Case said the county stands behind its decision to appoint Scott.
“We will vigorously defend any lawsuit the chamber brings,” Case said. “I’m comfortable with my opinion, I assume your attorney will be comfortable with his opinion. That’s the reason we have judges.”