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As calls for resignation increase, Tally Smith seems determined to remain Commonwealth Attorney

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By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

The number of Boone County elected officials calling for Commonwealth Attorney Linda Tally Smith to resign continues to increase.

Kenner

Tuesday, Boone County commissioners Charles Kenner and Charlie Walton became the latest to call for Tally Smith to step down.

Kenner issued the following statement which Walton said he supports:

“As a county government official, I realize that the recent events surrounding the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office have been difficult and unprecedented. Now that Judge (James R.) Schrand has ruled for a retrial of the Dooley case, it is apparent that Linda Tally Smith should resign from her position in order for a new trial to proceed without additional distraction.”

Despite the increased calls for her resignation, Tally Smith has given no indication she plans to step down.

On May 12, Schrand ruled that convicted killer David Wayne Dooley will be granted a new trial.

In 2014, Dooley was convicted of killing Michelle Mockbee, a Fort Mitchell mother of two, at the Thermo Fisher Scientific facility where both worked.

Schrand’s ruling was the culmination of a CR 60.02 hearing requested by the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to determine whether Dooley should be granted a new trial after questions arose about the conduct of Tally Smith and the availability of evidence for his defense team.

Walton

Tally Smith, who is married to District Court Judge Jeffrey Smith, has admitted to having an affair with then-Boone County Sheriff’s Detective Bruce McVay, the lead investigator on the case.

Many of the questions regarding Tally Smith’s conduct came to light after the OAG’s office obtained a thumb drive provided by Nicholas Ramler, a former employee of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.

The thumb drive includes several notes between Tally Smith and Detective McVay, including a long letter written by the Commonwealth’s Attorney. In that correspondence, she called McVay’s personal and professional conduct into question on several issues, but  indicated she would have the detective’s back if he lied on cases.

She also indicates in the letter, which she says was never sent, that McVay commonly skirted the rules and it was such common knowledge that other detectives referred to such conduct as “Pulling a Bruce.”

At the CR 60.02 hearing, McVay admitted to initially keeping some information from Tally Smith because of the amount of stress she was under during the murder trial.

Tally Smith

It’s not clear when Tally Smith became aware of the evidence in question. McVay said it was before the murder trial, Tally Smith said it was later, but Dooley’s defense team says it was never provided to them.

Schrand ruled Dooley should be granted a new trial because his defense team was entitled to know about the evidence that was withheld during the murder trial.

There are also questions about when and why Tally Smith stored all of the information, much of it private and intimate in nature, on a public server that anyone in the Commonwealth Attorney’s office could access. By some counts the thumb drive includes 40,000 documents and the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of pages of text.

The OAG’s Office took over the Dooley case after officials there reviewed the evidence on the thumb drive and prior to the CR 60.02 hearing. Deputy Attorney General J. Michael Brown and Special Prosecutor Shawna Kincer, who were not previously affiliated with the Dooley investigation, presented the OAG’s case at the hearing.

The Northern Kentucky Tribune has learned that the Kentucky Attorney General’s office has been asked by Boone County Attorney Robert Neace to conduct an investigation into whether Tally Smith’s actions constitute malfeasance in office and/or criminal activity that could be subject to prosecution.

The OAG’s office issued this one-sentence statement in response to the Tribune’s inquiry Wednesday regarding the Dooley case and the increase in calls for Tally Smith’s resignation:

“The case continues to be under the authority of the Attorney General’s office.”

Neace

At the conclusion of testimony in the CR 60.02 hearing in March, the Tribune provided a detailed analysis of the evidence presented and additional information related to the case.

At that time, the Tribune called on Tally Smith to recognize the untenable position her decision to remain Commonwealth’s Attorney creates for the Attorney General and her own office, and resign.

The Tribune also asked Attorney General Andy Beshear to conduct a complete and thorough investigation of Tally Smith, to include the allegations she has made against the Boone County Sheriff’s Office and its investigators.

Neace was the first elected official to call for Tally Smith’s resignation, at a Boone County Republican Party meeting on April 11.

“Following the hearing of the Dooley matter, I contacted the attorney for Linda Tally Smith…and I requested that (she) resign at that time,” Neace said. “I did not receive a positive response to my request.”

Phyllis Sparks, a Boone County Magistrate and former vice-chair of the Boone GOP also called for Tally Smith to step down.

Following Schrand’s decision to grant Dooley a new trial, Boone County Judge/Executive Gary Moore, the Boone County Republican Party and Boone County Clerk Kenny Brown called on Tally Smith to step down. All cited Schrand’s decision and the information regarding her conduct that came to light as a result of the hearing.

Sen. Schickel

Wednesday, State Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, confirmed that he has also called on Tally Smith to resign.

If Tally Smith chooses not to resign, experts say it will be very difficult to have her removed from office.

Legal experts the Tribune has consulted with say the General Assembly has the authority to impeach a Commonwealth Attorney. Such an action would be initiated in the House and ruled on at a Senate Trial. If a constitutional officer is determined to be guilty of an impeachable offense at the trial, he or she is removed from office.

Such a move is almost unprecedented and the General Assembly is not in session now. While a special session could be convened later this year, it is extremely unlikely this type of action would not be considered at that time.

Tribune consultants say if a Commonwealth Attorney is indicted on a felony, he or she could be relieved of duty by the Attorney General, but would continue to draw a salary as a prosecutor and an acting Commonwealth Attorney would be appointed.

One scenario that legal experts say could result in the removal of a Commonwealth Attorney is a disciplinary action by the Kentucky Bar Association. If a Commonwealth Attorney were disbarred, or possibly even suspended for ethical violations, he or she would not be able to practice law, which is a requirement for the office.

Brown

The sanctity of the judicial process is the primary concern professed by those who have called for Tally Smith to step down, but elected county officials have additional worries.

County elected officials who want to remain in office must seek reelection in 2018. That may seem a long way off, but the filing deadline is in January and the primary is only about a year away.

Commonwealth Attorney is a state office, but most associate Tally Smith with Boone County and her office is also subject to the will of the voters next year, as is the district judge seat held by her husband.

There has been no connection established between Tally Smith’s questionable conduct and any elected officials in the county. Her allegations against investigators in the Sheriff’s office, however, have some in Boone County calling for voters to wipe the slate clean next year.

With that in mind, Boone County elected officials who want to remain in office are well aware that the most import decision for their political futures could come in the court of public opinion.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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3 Comments

  1. Dean Knolls says:

    It is Soooo easy to pile on after the tackle has been made. Calls for resignation from Moore, Walton, Kenner and Schickel are very lame. Bob Neace is the only one who had the courage to do the right thing without a ruling needed. What if Judge would have ruled the other way ? Her OWN WORDS were enough to call for her resignation. This is what is wrong with Boone County. They have check and see which way the political wind is blowing before making ANY decision. I understand some leaking is starting to get out about what is in those redacted pages of her personal journal letter. Nicholas Ramler was right to say this is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s gonna get bad !! Where is our Sheriffs call for her resignation ??? There must be a reason he hasn’t !

  2. Thomas J. Theriot says:

    I hear that Bob Neace had all the information since March 2016. Why did he sit on it for over a year before saying anything ? Also, it is clear that none of the public officials even read Judge Schrand’s 18 page order in which he never faulted Linda Tally Smith on anything concerning the trial.

    • Dean Knolls says:

      Yes, if Schrand doesn’t see LTS doing anything wrong then McVay should be charged with perjury ! They both contradicted one another with their testimony so one of them is lying !! Does our Judges in Boone County care about perjury, especially those the court relies on so credibly ?? Why isn’t he concerned with who perjured in this instance ??? This sends a clear signal to normal citizens, it’s OK to lie on the stand. You will not suffer any consequences. If you lie under oath it is OK in Boone County, that’s a good thing to remember !

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