Jake Banta’s appointment to take the reins at the Franklin County Regional Jail following the abrupt retirement announcement from Jailer Rick Rogers capped off a news-filled week at the county’s only corrections facility.
On Tuesday, Franklin County Judge-Executive Huston Wells tapped Banta to lead the jail when Rogers retires Sept. 1. Until then he will serve as acting chief deputy.
In last year’s primary election Rogers defeated Democratic opponent Tracy Hopper — who expressed interest in the position to members of fiscal court over the weekend — and ran unopposed in the general election.
Less than a year into his second four-year term, Rogers said his decision to hang it up was influenced by changes to the Kentucky Retirement Systems and is in the best interest of his family.
Rogers’ tenure as jailer has been a mixed bag of highs and lows.
Under his tutelage, FCRJ has continuously ranked among the top in the state for the number of inmates earning their General Educational Development (GED) diplomas. To help improve inmates’ health and wellness, the jail recently began offering 24-hour medical services and access to GTL Inspire computer tablets.
But Rogers’ time as jailer was also plagued with controversy, including allowing then-Chief Deputy Kelly Rouse to retire last year after the county paid nearly $14,000 for an independent investigation into allegations of sexual harassment. In a heavily redacted copy of the report given by the county to The State Journal, investigators found evidence that Rouse “engaged in comments and/or behavior of either a direct or implied nature which has tended to create a hostile environment for female officers at the FCRJ.” Yet, Rogers allowed him to retire without consequences for his conduct.
Rogers acted much more decisively earlier this in dismissing a guard accused of having sex with an inmate, firing the guard ahead of felony criminal charges.
More recently, two lawsuits have been filed against the jail. The estate of Dylan Harrison Stratton alleged negligence against FCRJ after he died in the jail earlier this year. Former female inmate Kelsey Love, who gave birth in her cell at the facility, claims “deliberate indifference” in her lawsuit.
When Rogers announced his retirement at Friday’s fiscal court meeting, he reiterated that he has always “attempted to do the right thing.”
But we can’t help but wonder about the timing of his departure. It’s no secret that the Kentucky Retirement Systems is plagued with problems and has been for some time — including well before last year's election, when Rogers asked voters to give him another four years in office, only to quit in less than one.