By Greg Bird
Two Pulaski County Constables have been charged with violating the civil rights of various individuals as a result of a federal investigation into allegations of wrongdoing.
Constables Michael Wallace and Gary Baldock were indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in February for allegedly conspiring to deprive individuals of their rights by subjecting them to unreasonable searches and seizures and depriving them of property without due process of law. The indictment was unsealed Friday, setting the stage for the arrests and resulted in a showdown between one of the accused officers and federal agents.
Around 6:00 a.m. Friday morning FBI agents attempted to serve the warrants against the two subjects at their respective residences.
Wallace was arrested without incident, but when agents arrived at Baldock’s residence on Mountain View Drive the Constable reportedly shot at and wounded a federal agent, prompting other FBI agents to return fire – injuring Baldock.
Both the officer and Baldock were airlifted to the University of Kentucky Medical Center. The agent was treated and released later that day, while Baldock remained in the hospital in stable condition.
While very little information behind the reason for the arrests have been released, the indictment issued in U.S. District Court in London contends between November 2018 and September 2019 Wallace and Baldock – “knowingly and willfully conspired together to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate persons within Pulaski County, Kentucky in the free exercise and enjoyment of a right secured to them by the Constitution and laws of the United States, specifically their right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by one acting under color of law and the right to be free from the deprivation of property without due process of law by one acting under color of law.”
Reports indicate the two men may have been involved in schemes of not reporting proper amounts of seized money, and in some cases, possibly planting drugs in order to facilitate making drug-related arrests and seizing property.
Wallace pled not guilty to the charges in Federal Court last week, and a court date of May 11 has been set.
The Kentucky Constable Association issued a statement following the incident stating they have been involved in assisting the investigation.
“Our Professional Standards Bureau of the Kentucky Constable Association has been assisting the FBI in investigating public corruption in the Southern Kentucky area for over two years,” the statement read. “All investigative material was forwarded to the Public Corruption division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation more than a year ago.”
Constable Cody Stephens, representing McCreary County’s 3rd District, echoed the KCA’s statement, and expressed his shock at the arrests.
“I’m appalled,” Stephens said. “Corruption should not be tolerated. We were elected to do a job, and we should do it the right way.”
Stephens said he hoped the arrests don’t have a negative impact on how citizens view constables in their communities.
“I hope we are not all judged by the acts of a few,” he said. “I strive to do whatever I can to serve my office in a professional manner. I take my oath very seriously, and believe my responsibility is to serve the people to the best of my ability and work with other law enforcement agencies to protect the citizens of the county.”
The arrests once again raise the question about the necessity of constables in Kentucky
As a Constitutionally elected office with very little requirements to holding office, constables serve in nearly every county in Kentucky with little oversight.
To be elected to the position an individual need only be at least 24 years of age, a resident of the state for two years, and a resident of the district for one. There is no training required for anyone in the office, though some do go through the process to obtain training and certification in certain areas.
Constable Cody Stephens, who was recently named Constable of the Year by the KCA, has taken advantage of some of the training opportunities, earning certification in several areas. He said he feels constables should receive training as part of their duties, and noted a bill currently in the Kentucky Legislature would require such training for the office.
Constables typically earn operating funds through serving paperwork for the court system and performing other duties.
McCreary County is one of the few counties in the state that allocates an annual salary for the four positions, as well as a stipend for fuel. According to the 2019-20 county salary schedule the Fiscal Court allocates an annual gross salary for each of the four constables of $7,092. With benefits added, the cost to the county rises to $17,324 for each officer, for a total cost of about $70,000 each year.
Members of the Fiscal Court have discussed the possibility of dropping the annual salary for the office, but noted they could only do so during an election cycle as the constables serving were elected to the position with the understanding that there was a salary associated.
If the Fiscal Court were to remove the salary, it would not take effect until the new term begins in January 2023.
Stephens said he has spoken with members of the Fiscal Court about their concerns, and stated his opposition to removing the funding. He said he agrees that constables should be required to show proof that they are performing their duties in order to receive the salary provided by the taxpayers.