The Jefferson County Commission has not met to conduct business since September 7. The commission has 5 seats, one of which has been vacant since June 2023. In an ongoing struggle over filling the vacant seat, two commissioners — Jennifer Krouse and Tricia Jackson — have been refusing to attend the commission meetings. Since a quorum (at least 3 commissioners) is required to conduct business, the commission has been unable to approve new hires or sign contracts since then.
The commission missed a September 29 deadline to submit an application for a $50,000 grant for construction of a much-needed third holding cell in the courthouse. The application was on the agenda for the commission’s regular September 21 meeting and again on the agenda for a scheduled special meeting on September 28. Commissioners Jackson and Krouse declined to attend both meetings, so the commission could not vote to accept the grant prior to the deadline.
Jackson and Krouse took to social media to complain about The Observer’s coverage of this missed grant opportunity — calling it “fake news” and “lying.” They deflected responsibility from themselves and blamed Commission President Steve Stolipher for not following through on an attempt to approve the grant application via email between the commissioners. On October 11, The Spirit of Jefferson newspaper also investigated the issue, coming to the same conclusion as The Observer — that the commission is required to follow the Open Governmental Meetings Act and could approve the grant application only by taking a vote during a public meeting, which did not happen.
The commission had another grant on the agenda of its October 19 meeting, with a deadline of October 30 to accept a $114,000 award. The “Victims of Crime Act” (VOCA) program funds four victim advocates positions in the County Prosecutor’s office. These advocates work with victims of crimes, assisting them with compensation claims and other services. This program has been in place for decades, but the acceptance of the federal funding must be renewed each year.
With Jackson and Krouse absent on October 19, and the next regular meeting not until November 2, it appears that the commission will miss its deadline for this grant too.
The four victim advocate positions are included in this year’s approved county budget. The Prosecutor’s office has indicated it expects these roles to remain fully staffed and funded as budgeted and is working with the Governor’s office to find an alternative way to accept the grant.By Steve Pearson