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Former AG candidate P'Pool named in civil suit

A former Republican nominee for Kentucky Attorney General and past Hopkins County Attorney has been named in a lawsuit claiming he and his law firm committed gross negligence in handling assigned legal matters and withheld more than $300,000 from a client.

Todd P’Pool was named the defendant, along with the P’Pool Legal Group, in a lawsuit filed on Nov. 9 by Mariner Finance, LLC out of Nottingham, Maryland. The civil suit seeks damages for alleged breach of contract, conversion, negligence and includes a petition for injunctive relief and a restraining order.

According to an affidavit attached to the lawsuit, Bonnie Klapaska — senior executive vice president and CCO of Mariner Finance — says the company employed P’Pool Legal Group as counsel in the states of Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana on Aug. 23, 2017.

Among other services, P’Pool was tasked with filing lawsuits to collect delinquent loans owned by Mariner.

Over the course of the employment, the affidavit claims that P’Pool collected substantial funds in the name of Mariner.

On Nov. 11, 2019, Mariner notified P’Pool that the company was withdrawing all files from P’Pool and terminated the attorney’s employment for cause, citing “various actions and inactions taken by P’Pool in the course of … representation of Mariner.”

The suit also claims that after P’Pool’s contract was terminated, his legal group continued to collect funds that were connected with Mariner customers and continued to provide Mariner with monthly accounting statements.

“However, P’Pool has failed and refused to remit the excess funds, despite repeated requests,” according to the affidavit, which claims that as of Sept. 23 of this year, the P’Pool Legal Group has $337,421.50 in funds that it has refused to forward to Mariner.

“The failure and refusal of P’Pool to forward the funds to Mariner is creating a hardship on Mariner in its daily operations, which will result in irreparable harm if P’Pool is not ordered to immediately remit said excess funds to Mariner,” according to the suit.

The lawsuit is also seeking fees for any losses Mariner incurred as a result of P’Pool’s alleged malpractice in handling the company’s collections. Mariner is also seeking punitive damages for P’Pool’s alleged gross negligence.

P’Pool’s attorney called the suit “baseless.”

“Todd P’Pool has provided exceptional legal services to clients for over two decades prior to him undertaking the representation of Mariner Finance,” said Louisville-based attorney Steve Romines in a written statement. “As Mariner admits in its own complaint, due to its own misconduct, it has been sued in multiple cases in multiple states and multiple jurisdictions both state and federal. None of Mariner’s alleged misconduct was the result of Mr. P’Pool’s professional representation, and this baseless lawsuit is merely an effort to shift the responsibility for their own misdeeds. We look forward to defending this matter and exposing it for the meritless farce that it is.”

Mariner’s attorney Joseph Michael Kelly of Louisville declined comment on the litigation.

P’Pool lost his run for Attorney General in 2011 to Democrat incumbent Jack Conway. He served two terms as Hopkins County Attorney (2007-2014).

No court date has been set for this case, according to the Hopkins County Circuit Court Clerk’s office.

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New COVID-19 restrictions impacting local businesses

The newest COVID-19 mandates from Gov. Andy Beshear following an increase in cases has local businesses brainstorming how to operate with the new conditions.

According to the new restrictions, restaurants cannot serve food and beverages indoors but can serve carry out and provide outdoor service as long as customers are six feet apart and tables have a maximum of eight people.

Kevin Cotton, owner of Brother’s BBQ and mayor of Madisonville, said the business has had to rework how they are operating and will offer curbside service just like they did at the beginning of the pandemic in March.

“By going to curbside service it is going to be a bit of a challenge for us, but it is going to be a challenge for every restaurant,” he said.

Since he has had to close down the dinning room Cotton is expecting to see a decline in sales.

This time around the restrictions will impact the business more because they haven’t had a chance to recoup and run at full capacity, he said.

“I think it is going to be tough for every restaurant in our community, simply because they haven’t had a chance to get caught up from being shut down the first time,” said Cotton.

When Brother’s BBQ first shut down Cotton said they had access to Paycheck Protection Programs to help offset some of the losses and helped keep the doors open

Cotton said there may be some funds available after Nov. 30 to help his business, but with three restaurants, the money may not help much. He is hoping the decline in sales will not affect his employees and that the money helps him keep them all.

“Our staff has done a fantastic job,” said Cotton. “They have been very willing to overcome and adapt to the challenges we have been facing.”

Cotton said he already has his employees stagger their shifts, check their temperatures before work, wear masks and stay quarantined if they are around someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Cotton said it is unlikely the restaurant will serve indoors even after the restrictions lift in December.

“We are looking at such an uptick in our numbers in our community that the more people who continue to get together and not abide by the recommendations of the governor it is going to continue to spread this virus,” said Cotton. “We can’t just think that this virus is just going to disappear.”

He asks the community to support local businesses because community is what can help a local businesses get through this time.

“Our customers are more than just a number, they are more than just a ticket, they are family,” said Cotton. “Family definitely supports each other in tough times and we anticipate seeing that in this time.”

Gyms and other recreation facilities have also been impacted by the new restrictions. According to the order, facilities can only allow 33% of the maximum occupancy, prohibit indoor group activities and require masks be worn at all times, even while working out.

Chad Hart, CEO of the Hopkins County YMCA, said he hopes the new restrictions will have minimal impact on the organization.

“As an organization, we plan to act as responsible as possible to continually gain the trust of our community during this pandemic,” said Hart.

Hard added since the facility is so big they have been able to space out equipment to ensure people remain safe.

“Because of the size of our facility, we have not reached the 33% capacity limits since those restrictions were implemented in June,” said Hart.

They have put signs on machines to keep people from using them, added stations around the facility with disinfectant clothes for members to wipe down the equipment and they have added signs around the facility to let people know the maximum capacity for that room.

“Our staff has been conditioned through the pandemic to think strategically and try to think through and foresee potential issues before they arrive,” said Hart.

With masks being worn even during a work out Hart said he understands if some people leave the YMCA but hopes they will become an Impact Member. Impact Members will have access to the YMCA’s virtual wellness components and Fit Kit rental systems for free.

“During the pandemic, many opportunities are taken away and restrictions limit the number of programs they can offer which hurts them financially,” he said. “The YMCA will continue looking at creative options and focus on fundraising efforts. The YMCA is absolutely nothing without our community.”

MCC encourages Work Ready Scholarship applicants

Madisonville Community College is making a college education more accessible with Work Ready Scholarships.

MCC began offering the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship in 2017, which offers up to 60 hours of free tuition to anyone who has not earned an associate’s degree.

“The Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship is a statewide scholarship for high-wage, high-demand academic programs where eligible students can have their unmet tuition be paid,” said Aimee Wilkerson, dean of enrollment management at the college.

To be eligible for the scholarship students must be a Kentucky resident, a high school graduate or working on their GED, cannot have an associates degree and they have to be enrolled in an eligible program.

Eligible programs include health care, manufacturing, business and IT, construction and skilled trades and transportation and logistics. There are currently 350 courses available at Madisonville Community College in these programs.

“This is a perfect opportunity for someone to earn not only a degree, but maybe earn some additional certification that is going to help them grow or move further in their career,” said Wilkerson. “The scholarship is very easy to apply for. Once a student completes the FAFSA they go on to complete the scholarship application.”

Wilkerson added the application is short with less than 10 questions to answer.

The scholarship will pay any tuition cost not covered by financial aid or other scholarships, said Wilkerson. If a student does not receive any financial aid or scholarships, then the Work Ready Scholarship can cover everything.

“Everyone’s Work Ready award is different,” she said. “Everyone’s amount is different because everyone receives a different amount of aid or scholarships.”

The Work Ready scholarship is also encouraged for high school seniors who don’t qualify for aid and for adult learners who are in the workplace who don’t qualify for aid or employer paid tuition reimbursement, according to Wilkerson.

Rhonda Castleberry, an aviation program specialist at the college, applied for the scholarship in August 2019 when she enrolled for a business administration degree.

“It is a great scholarship for adults my age that are wanting to go back to school to earn their degree,” said Castleberry.

Castleberry originally worked in the Workforce Solutions Department at the college, but because she is back in school, she was able to get a promotion. She will finish her degree in May 2021. All of her tuition is paid for and she only has to pay for her books.

“This makes a college educations much more accessible to any student,” said Castleberry. “Don’t let the fear of the unknown hold you back.”

For more information, contact MCC Financial Aid Office, at 270-824-8598. To register for classes or ask about qualifying degrees, contact the Enrollment Center, at 270-824-8657. To apply for the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship, visit www.kheaa.com/website/kheaa/work_ready.

One new COVID-19 death reported in Hopkins County

The death total from COVID-19 has increased to 47 in Hopkins County.

Hopkins County Health Department Director Denise Beach confirmed Friday that one more person has died this week from COVID-19 bringing the total that have died in the county just this week to three.

The health department reported 29 new cases on Friday bringing the total cases to ever be documented in Hopkins County to 1,621. With a death total of 47 and 1,065 recovered from the virus, there are now 509 active cases in the county.

COVID-19 numbers in the state have caused more mandates to be put in place this week from Gov. Andy Beshear including limiting the number of people inside gyms, prohibiting indoor dining, limiting the capacity of event venues and taking all schools to virtual learning.

These mandates are in place for the next three to six weeks, according to Beshear.

On the county level, the health department announced that all positive cases must contact others they have come into contact with.

“This is a change in the Department of Public Health Protocol to accommodate the overwhelming number of new cases daily,” according to an announcement from the health department “If someone notifies you that you are a contact to them, and they have COVID-19, please quarantine for 14 days from your last exposure to that person.”

Beach said the department will still contact positive cases that are brought in for testing and high risk groups.