A thorough investigation was conducted into the claim of intimidation and misconduct against now former Fayette County Board Chairman Steve Knebel. The investigation was conducted by Robert McCall of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department. In McCall’s report he says he received a phone call from Fayette County State’s Attorney Joshua Morrison on April 22nd of this year. McCall says Morrison told him briefly on the phone he received a complaint in November from newly elected County Clerk Vicky Conder that she felt she was being intimidated by County Board Chairman Steve Knebel into employing a person she did not want to hire, and was allegedly told if she did not hire his pick he would cut her budget and not allow her to fill vacancies in her office.
In McCall’s interview with Fayette County Clerk Vicky Conder, she stated she attended the County Board meeting on November 13th of 2014. Conder says before the meeting started Steve Knebel motioned Conder to follow him into an empty room in the courthouse. And, according to Conder, Knebel then told Conder the individual he wanted her to hire was going to be placed full time in her office. Conder says she advised Knebel she was not going to hire the individual he wanted, but had someone else in mind to fill the post. Conder then says Knebel told her she was making a big mistake and he was going to get his way and Conder says Knebel stated that if she did not hire the individual he wanted the budget for her office would be cut and she would not be able to hire any staff. Conder then says Knebel had raised his voice and was pointed at her face in such a way that another board member entered the room and asked if all was OK. Meanwhile, County Board member Darrell Schaal was interviewed and says he was asked by Knebel to enter a room with Knebel and Conder to talk about the budget prior to the November 13th meeting. Schaal says during his meeting with Knebel and Conder he never heard Knebel tell Conder to hire any certain individual and Schaal said his memory of the meeting between the two was to inform her she was only going to be allowed to replace one of the two empty spots in her office. And, in his report, McCall says he asked the direct question to Schaal was Conder’s appropriations cut as a direct result of her not hiring the individual Knebel wanted? Schaal answered “there are no ramifications in regards to the budget regardless of who Conder hires.”
Meanwhile, McCall also interviewed former County Clerk Terri Braun. Braun told McCall she was informed by Chairman Knebel and the budget committee before the November 2014 election if her Deputy Clerk, Kelly Taylor, won the election versus Conder that Taylor would not be able to replace herself-the deputy clerk’s position-in the office. And Braun said they also stated if Taylor lost the election to Conder and left the office the new Clerk would also not be allowed to replace Taylor—meaning it would appear there were already plans to cut an individual from the Clerk’s office before the election took place and prior to the November 13th meeting—the election which Conder won the Clerk’s spot occurred on November 4th, prior to the November 13th meeting.
Special Prosecutor Matt Goetten reviewed the report from McCall and on July 6th issued a statement saying that his agency would not be filing charges against Knebel and said he doubted any further review would be necessary. Knebel resigned from the County Board last Tuesday, although he was cleared to return to his duties. Knebel served 13 years on the board—the last 8 as Board Chairman.