Friday, November 03, 2000

Warren leader rips war on drugs

By David Eck
Enquirer Contributor

        LEBANON — Warren County Commissioner Mike Kilburn on Tuesday delivered to law enforcement officials a profanity-laced solution to the county's growing drug problem.

        “If you get caught with drugs, you lose your life,” he said. “You lose your (exple tive) life, period. That would solve the problem. If we're not willing to go to the ultimate on the punishment, then it's a big game and we're not real serious about it to start with.”

        A two-hour meeting Tuesday between the Warren County commissioners and law enforcement officials was riddled with obscenities and profanities from Mr. Kilburn, a five-term Republican commissioner. He is unopposed in Tuesday's election.

        His tirade was in response to a request by Warren County Drug Task Force Director John Burke for nearly $400,000 to expand the unit, which is now essentially a one-man operation. Commissioners rejected the plan.

        The 7-year-old force operates on a $58,000 federal grant, $40,000 in contributions from eight political entities and drug forfeitures.

        A tape recording of the public meeting was reviewed by the Enquirer Thursday.

        Admitting his exasperation with the county's drug problem, Mr. Kilburn said he wants harsher sentences and fewer plea bargains in drug cases.

        “I think we plea bargain too damn many times,” Mr. Kilburn said. “None of the people, in my opinion, get any sentences from the judges. I want to see some re sults.”

        He also said it is time for the country to either take strong measures to fight drugs, or legalize and tax them.

        In addition, the commissioner said students involved in extracurricular school activities should take mandatory drug tests.

        “But some (expletive) from the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) will stand up and say that's abridging their privileges and their rights,” Mr. Kil burn said.

        On Thursday, Mr. Kilburn did not back down from his strong language. However, he said he was more open than he would have been if reporters had attended the meeting.

        “I know I talked a little more freely than I would have otherwise,” he said. “When you're so outspoken, you're going to step on some toes.

        “I'm not wanting to give more money out of our budget; out of the limited funds that we have. It's a proven fact that throwing more money at anything isn't the solution.”

        Mr. Kilburn's fellow commissioners said he is outspoken on issues that are close to him.

        “Mike is a very passionate individual and anyone who knows him knows of his ability to stand loud and strong on issues he considers personal,” Commissioner Pat South said.

        Commissioner Larry Crisenbery said Mr. Kilburn was reacting in frustration.

        “I didn't see anybody get offended, get up and walk out,” Mr. Crisenbery said. “That's just Mike Kilburn.”

        Neither Mr. Burke or Warren County Prosecutor Tim Oliver, who attended Tuesday's meeting, would comment on Mr. Kilburn's comments.

        The money Mr. Burke had requested from the commissioners would have been used to hire three agents and a secretary, equip and house the unit, and start new programs.

        Eight jurisdictions in Warren County contribute $5,000 apiece to the drug task force. Commissioners will match any additional money the communities contribute to the unit.

        Mr. Burke has said a lack of staffing has meant at least 20 drug tips from police, residents and school officials go unanswered each week at the task force.

        He also said the county's drug-busting squad is taking only a fraction of drugs off the streets.


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