Evidentiary hearing on removal of LC Circuit Clerk concludes

Published 1:53 pm Wednesday, February 28, 2024

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Editor’s Note: This is a brief summary of the two-day hearing. Look for more in depth coverage in future editions of The Interior Journal.

STANFORD – The second and final day of the evidentiary hearing to consider the removal of Lincoln County Circuit clerk Dwight Hopkins was held Wednesday at the Lincoln County Judicial Center.

The hearing was requested by Hopkins following an investigation by the Administrative office of the Courts and a final report from the Code of Conduct Commission that found Hopkins’ conduct constituted discrimination and unlawful workplace harassment, creating a hostile work environment. 

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The investigation began after seven complaints were received from Lincoln County Circuit Clerk employees alleging workplace harassment. 

Hopkins was placed on paid administrative leave in March 2023. 

The first day of the hearing included witness testimony from Chief Deputy Norma Atwood, and Circuit Clerk employees Tami Releford, Lori Henderson and Robyn Blackburn. Testimony was also heard from Dwight Hopkins. 

Atwood’s testimony was the longest and detailed several meetings with Hopkins during which she alleged he was irate, spoke negatively about his wife, made comments about Atwood’s appearance, as well as other women, and expressed anger about a movie outing the female employees went on with former Circuit Clerk Angelia Doolin.

Witnesses were questioned by counsel from the Attorney General’s Office and cross-examined by Hopkin’s counsel. The witnesses described the alleged hostile work environment that existed following the movie outing. 

Testimony was also heard from Hopkins who said the outing was a poor reflection on the office and was coordinated by Doolin, his political opponent, who was attempting to undermine his office by also suggesting and helping to schedule interviews for Circuit Clerk employees at other places of employment. 

The Special Advocate rested their case Tuesday a little after 4 p.m.

Wednesday morning the hearing resumed, with Hopkins’ counsel calling two witnesses including Amanda Coulter, AOC director of human resources. 

Coulter detailed the investigation she conducted, which included interviewing the seven complainants, as well as one now-retired former employee, and Hopkins. 

Following her interviews and investigation, Coulter recommended that Hopkins and employees receive training. 

There was discussion about a recording that was obtained during the investigation, which Coulter said was inaudible. 

The second witness called by Hopkins’ counsel was Jake Staton, the Circuit Clerk for Clinton County. 

Staton said Hopkins regularly sought his advice on how to deal with employee issues. Staton said Hopkins was intelligent and capable of learning and he would like to see him retain the office, but he could not speak to what kind of boss Hopkins was as a Circuit Clerk. 

Staton was the final witness and the hearing concluded at about 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 28.

Retired Circuit Judge Jean Chenault Logue was appointed to serve as Special Commissioner to consider the allegations raised against Hopkins and oversee the final evidentiary hearing.

Logue will make findings of fact, conclusions of law and recommendations concerning whether good cause exists for the Supreme Court to remove Hopkins based on the evidence presented at the final evidentiary hearing.

“I can’t guess what they will do,” Logue said Wednesday. 

Attorneys have until March 29 to submit their briefings. Logue will then have 30 days to submit her findings and recommendations to the Supreme Court. 

The hearing was streamed live on Youtube on the Kentucky Court of Justice channel, but videos were set to private following the conclusion. Anyone interested in obtaining a copy of the hearing can do so by requesting a copy for $25 from the Supreme Court Circuit Court’s Office, by calling 502-564-5444.


Due to technical issues with the live stream of the Feb. 27-28 Lincoln County Circuit Clerk hearing, the brief summary did not include the following information: 

Robyn Blackburn, a Lincoln County Deputy Clerk who was one of the complainants against Circuit Clerk Dwight Hopkins, was advised of her rights and pleaded the fifth amendment when asked by Hopkins’ counsel if she was in her office when she took the recording of Hopkins that she submitted to the AOC during their investigation. 

The recording was referred to during AOC employee Amanda Coulter’s testimony. Coulter conducted interviews for the AOC’s initial investigation and testified that the AOC received an inaudible recording during the investigation.  

“I was not able to hear anything on the recording,” Coulter said. Coulter said because of the fact that it was inaudible it played no role in the investigation other than being submitted as evidence. 

In addition to recommending specific training for Hopkins, she also recommended some employees receive training due to the unprofessional discussions in the workplace initiated by some employees.