Hornback withdraws back-pay complaint

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Hodgenville clerk says she’s received threats for her action

By Linda Ireland

Hodgenville City Clerk/Treasurer MaDonna Hornback said last week she has withdrawn the claim she filed for back pay with the Kentucky Labor Cabinet.

Hornback’s announcement came just days after the Kentucky Labor Cabinet confirmed it opened an investigation into her claim she is owed $196,263.91 in overtime pay.

Hornback provided the cabinet with an itemized list of 6,342 hours of uncompensated hours ranging from unpaid vacation time to watering flowers on Lincoln Square to decorating city hall. She provided copies to Mayor Terry Cruse and Hodgenville City Council earlier this month.

The hours range from her date of hire, July 1, 2007, to Jan. 6, 2014.

Hornback said she wrote a letter to Patty Major with the KLC, withdrawing the claim after a city council member told her last week she soon would be fired.

The letter, dated Jan. 18, says: “Dear Ms. Major: Due to the animosity shown to me and threats of being fired by my council, I would like to withdraw my complaint effective immediately.”

During her employment, according to information Hornback provided, her hourly pay increased from $12 an hour in 2007 to $24.75 an hour.

She earns $51,448.80 annually from the city and an additional $2,448 annually as administrator for the Red Hill Cemetery Commission.

The cemetery board is composed of members of council, Hornback, Cruse and City Attorney Mary Gaines Locke.

Hornback’s complaint came less than a month after she was indicted by a grand jury on 54 counts of abuse of public trust; and theft by unlawful taking.

She is accused of unlawfully using the city’s fuel credit on 54 occasions between March 2012 and April 2013; and of claiming expenses for use of her private vehicle at a rate of 55 cents per mile instead of the state rate of 47 to 50 cents per mile.

Cruse was charged with nine counts of abuse of public trust; theft by unlawful taking; two counts of campaign contribution restrictions-expense limits; and two counts of second-degree forgery.

He also was accused of unlawfully using the fuel credit card issued for vehicles on the city’s fleet account and claiming expenses for use of his private vehicle at a higher rate than is lawfully allowed. He also is charged with two counts of unlawfully accepting a candidate cash contribution exceeding $50 during his campaign for LaRue County sheriff; and falsely completing an election finance statement.

Both pleaded not guilty Jan. 14 at their arraignment.

The Kentucky State Police seized numerous records at City Hall last summer and have retained possession of the majority of them, according to Hornback.

Hornback told The LaRue County Herald News last week that she reimbursed two city councilmen at the higher mileage rate on one occasion in 2013. She believed she was following the correct guidelines, she said. No charges have been brought against the councilmen.

“They’ll probably say they didn’t know,” she said. “But neither did I.”

The complete documentation is unavailable due to KSP’s ongoing investigation.

It’s unclear whether the Labor Cabinet will cease its investigation after receiving Hornback’s letter.

However, the outcome of the criminal case will have no bearing on the Labor Cabinet’s investigation, said Daniel Lowry, director of communications for the KLC.

“There is no set time frame required for the investigations” and the process will be handled “independent of the criminal case,” he added.

“We take every complaint 100 percent seriously,” he said.

According to state law, there is a five-year statute of limitations on wage and hour complaints with the Labor Cabinet – and that could impact Hornback’s claim.

Also, there are several state guidelines about situations that exempt employees from overtime requirements.

Those include being employed in an administrative capacity; compensated on a salary or fee basis of not less than $455 per week, exclusive of board, lodging, or other facilities; having a primary duty of office or nonmanual work directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer’s customers; and whose primary duty includes the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.

Hornback wrote in her original complaint letter to the Labor Cabinet, “Should the city agree to pay me, I will drop my complaint. However, if they do not agree to pay me, I will be forced to continue to the full extent I can to collect the money I feel is owed to me for work done by me on behalf of the city.”

Hornback said last week the complaint with the Department of Labor “isn’t about the money.”

“While I realize I filed a complaint with the Kentucky Department of Labor ... it’s not about the money. It’s really about the lack of respect they’ve shown me for all the time I’ve spent on the city I haven’t been paid for.”