NewsCovering Kentucky


Union President reacts to Fayette jail director's retirement

Posted at 8:44 PM, Jul 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-25 15:48:09-04

UPDATE: FCDC Lisa Farmer confirmed to LEX 18 Monday that she is retiring effective Oct. 1, as was previously reported. She maintained that her "retirement decision has nothing to do with staffing shortages."

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Mayor Linda Gorton and Lexington city officials will be tasked with finding a new director of the Fayette County Detention Center, following the announcement that the current director will retire later this year.

In an email obtained by LEX 18, FCDC Director Lisa Farmer told staff members she would be retiring effective Oct. 1, 2022.

"This job has given me a lot of opportunities that I would not have been able to do in a lot of other fields and I am very grateful for my time," Farmer said in the email.

Farmer, who was named as the director in 2020, did not provide a reason for her decision to retire, but did contend that she was not asked to resign, as had apparently been suggested.

"I am not being asked to resign as reported to the newspaper, but just the opposite and was asked to extend my time until both positions were filled," Farmer wrote.

The announcement came as the city faces lingering questions over concerns about staffing shortages at the jail.

"The feeling is the inmates have the power," said Corporal Michael Harris, who is the president of FOP Town Branch Lodge #83. "They run the jail and actually, we're the inmates. The employees are the inmates."

Cpl. Harris said while he likes Farmer as a person, he did not think she was equipped for a job in leadership.

In May, the union's executive board issued a 'no-confidence' vote against Farmer and Public Safety Commissioner Kenneth Armstrong.

A press release stated that the vote came following survey results that showed "low officer morale, health, and safety issues, and harassing behavior towards officers unable to meet ridiculous overtime demands."

Farmer alluded to concerns about leadership in her email to staff, urging them not to "believe everything that is being told to you is true and think for yourselves."

An email to Farmer was not returned by the time of the broadcast.

Union representatives say staffing shortages continue to plague the jail, despite the two year, $10 million collective bargaining agreement reached between the union and the city of Lexington.

Harris said that while the pay bumps included in the contract were appreciated, they did not do enough to recruit and retain employees.

"What has happened is the competition around us has caught up with us," Harris argued. "So now we're behind the curve again."

Harris said the jail is 132 officers short of being full staffed. He added that 14 prospective employees are joining the staff soon.

As far as leadership positions, a city spokesperson told LEX 18 the jail is down one deputy director and five sergeants, although one person will be promoted next month to fill one of the sergeant positions.

Harris proposed that both union representatives and city officials return to the negotiating table and begin talking about the next collective bargaining agreement.

"I don't think there's time to wait on, 'Let's wait and see what happens,'" said Harris. "That's a recipe for disaster."

In her farewell email to staff, Farmer expressed optimism about the jail's future. 

"I wish nothing but the best for everyone that works here and I do believe that things will turn around in the near future," Farmer wrote.