Court grants ousted Paducah commissioner injunction, restoring office during appeal process
This story has been edited for clarity.
A McCracken County Circuit Court judge ruled Wednesday in favor of a Paducah City Commission member who was removed from office in January.
David Guess – who the commission unanimously voted to remove last month after finding he’d committed misconduct in the form of a racially charged text to a city employee in reference to a Black candidate for commission – is effectively restored to elected office.
McCracken County Circuit Court Judge Tony Kitchen granted both a restraining order and a temporary injunction to Guess, stopping the City of Paducah from enforcing its order to remove the fourth-term commissioner from office.
Attorneys for the City of Paducah argued that misconduct, which is left undefined in Kentucky’s laws that dictate the operations of local governing bodies, is best defined by the members of those bodies and that the city’s ruling should stand.
Kitchen, though, considered Guess’s case to be reliant on the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which he said protects “even repugnant speech.” This supersedes the authority of the local city commission.
David Riley, an attorney for Guess, hit on the same sentiment in a statement after the hearing.
“As Americans, we have sacred values enshrined in the First Amendment. One of those is is that even unpopular or distasteful speech is protected,” Riley said. “We don't get First Amendment cases that are popular speech … when you say things that are supported by everyone. You only get First Amendment cases for unpopular speech or disfavorable opinions and that's what this case is about.”
Paducah Mayor George Bray, who was not present at the hearing, said he was “disappointed” by the decision.
“We felt that David's speech, while all speech is protected by the First Amendment … was not representative of what leadership should be,” Bray said during a phone interview. “We feel strongly that we did what we needed to do for the community.”
The injunction will allow Guess to serve on the city commission through the appeal process.
Attorneys for Guess estimate the next court date to be within 60 days.