A Kentucky judge was suspended with pay pending an investigation into accusations of misconduct including, among others, nepotism, retaliation against local government employees, and having an affair with a man and a woman in a courthouse office, court documents show.
Family Circuit Court Judge Dawn Gentry was suspended Monday after she was charged with nine counts of misconduct in November 2019. Her first hearing to address the charges came last Friday before the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission.
In addition to alleged affairs, the JCC has accused Gentry of retaliating against local government employees who didn’t provide full support for her election campaign. It further alleges Gentry engaged in nepotism, appointing friends to a specific panel after also coercing then-incumbent members of that same panel to donate to her campaign the maximum amount of money allowed.
Gentry’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, told CNN that Gentry was disappointed with the decision to suspend her temporarily on the basis that her suspension was “in the best interest of justice,” as the JCC decided.
“We put up a case that she’s a very good judge,” Ryan said. “They just thought she was getting too much bad publicity.”
In her response to the charges as part of the Friday hearing, Gentry rebuffed the accusations. She said she did not ask anyone for monetary donations, denied all charges of retaliation and any sexual advances toward anyone, and maintained that everyone she appointed to a GAL — guardian ad litem — panel had proper training beforehand, the documents read.
A guardian ad litem is an appointed person — usually an attorney — for a child who is responsible for pursuing the best interests of the child.
Bryan Beauman, whom the JCC hired to serve as a prosecutor in the hearing, said he didn’t have any further comment beyond what he said at the hearing on Friday.
The other charges Gentry faces include filing inaccurate timesheets for her employees, holding unofficial conferences outside of trials that excluded some relevant parties, failing to provide enough information in a prior investigation, and making unwanted sexual advances toward another female attorney, Katherine Schulz. Gentry denies all of those accusations as well.
The official filing says that any one of the charges would be sufficient to warrant consequences, but that the nine together “demonstrate a pattern of misconduct in office.”
Ryan, who formerly served as a judge and a JCC member, said he expects a month or two will pass before Gentry’s next hearing, which would determine the level of punishment issued against Gentry, if any.
If found guilty, Gentry faces anything from a formal admonishment to removal from office, Ryan said.
Gentry, a Republican, was elected in 2018 to an eight-year term.