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Kentucky Supreme Court removes Pulaski County circuit court clerk from office


The Kentucky Supreme Court has removed Pulaski County’s circuit court clerk from office. Employees accused Joseph "JS" Flynn of inappropriate conduct, but he could return after the November election.

Former Deputy Clerk Tabitha Burnett filed a complaint with the Administrative Office of the Courts in 2022, alleging Flynn engaged in inappropriate workplace behavior. Flynn admitted to a sexual relationship with Burnett, his subordinate, and acknowledged not reporting the relationship.

Burnett made other allegations, including a time when she and a female coworker were returning from lunch with Flynn when he "pulled Burnett from the front seat into the back seat of the vehicle, forcefully kissed her on the face and neck, pulled up her shirt and kissed her breast, and exposed himself," according to the complaint. Flynn denied the incident occurred, and said he has two surgically inserted rods in his back that he claimed would make it impossible for him to engage in the conduct described by Burnett.

Other female employees in the office alleged that Flynn poked, cursed, and yelled at them in front of the public. The AOC investigated the claims and found that Flynn engaged in unlawful workplace harassment and retaliation, and created a hostile work environment. A three-day evidentiary hearing before a special commissioner supported the AOC's findings and concluded Flynn should be removed from office.

According to the Supreme Court opinion, "The Special Commissioner found that Flynn also created a hostile work environment by pinching other female employees on the back below their bra while making statements such as “let daddy feel your bacon” and asking them to call him “daddy.” Flynn acknowledges pinching employees to “scare” them but denies making reference to “bacon.”

The Supreme Court said Flynn’s removal was warranted an declared the office vacant in an order issued Mar. 14.

"While we acknowledge the gravity of removal of an elected official from office, and the severity of such a sanction, we nonetheless find removal warranted here. As such, we hereby remove Flynn from the office of the Pulaski Circuit Court Clerk for the remainder of his term," according to the order signed by Chief Justice Laurence VanMeter.

Dennis Loy has been serving as acting circuit clerk since Flynn was placed on paid leave in 2022.

While the order from the Supreme Court removed Flynn from office, it doesn’t bar him from seeking public office again. Flynn’s term is up this year and he’s on the November ballot as the only candidate for Pulaski Circuit Court Clerk.

If he’s re-elected, the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office says the Supreme Court could remove him again or the General Assembly could impeach him.

He could also choose to withdraw from the race, and in that case, the seat would be filled by appointment until the 2026 election.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.