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Ethics violation prompts Houghlin to ask daughter to resign as deputy coroner

STAFF REPORT

Wednesday, May 30, 2014, 3 p.m. — Nelson County Coroner Field Houghlin is asking his daughter, Rebecca Houghlin, to resign her deputy coroner position because her hire violates the county’s ethics ordinance.

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REBECCA HOUGHLIN

The joint city-county ethics ordinance adopted in 1995 and revised in March 2011 expressly prohibits nepotism and bars office holders — including the county coroner — from advocating, recommending or causing the employment of a family member to a paid position.

In a faxed press release dated Tuesday, Field Houghlin explained that he asked Judge-Executive Dean Watts to appoint his daughter to the position when a vacancy occurred. The fax notes Rebecca Houghlin holds an associate’s degree in mortuary science which provided training in subjects useful in the coroner’s office.

An associate’s degree typically is a one or two-year program.

According to the Houghlin-Greenwell Funeral Home website, Rebecca Houghlin is a 2010 graduate of Nelson County High School who served her funeral director and embalmer apprenticeship at the funeral home. The site says she was to attend Mid American College of Funeral Service in the Spring of 2013.

Houghlin said he was not aware that hiring his daughter was a violation of the county’s ethics ordinance. The issue came to light when Houghlin’s Republican challenger, Danielle Chladek, filed an ethics complaint.

“This isn’t about Rebecca Houghlin’s qualifications,” Chladek said Wednesday. “It’s about the violation of the ethics ordinance.”

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RAYFIELD ‘FIELD’ HOUGHLIN

“I certainly would not intentionally do anything contrary to the ethics law,” Houghlin said in a press release. “This is a county ordinance, not a state law, so it was simply an oversight on my part and Judge Watts.”

Houghlin said he requested his daughter’s resignation to bring the county coroner’s office back in compliance with the ethics ordinance.

The press release notes that close relatives serve as coroners and deputy coroners in Spencer, Taylor, Bourbon and Muhlenberg counties.

According to the Department of Local Government, all four counties have ethics ordinances that expressly forbid nepotism, or allow it under specific rules and circumstances with approval of the county’s ethics commission.

Field Houghlin is seeking re-election and faces no opposition in the May 20 primary. He will face Chladek in the November general election.

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