Hon. James R. Shaw
Oldham County Magistrate
4209 Highway 146
LaGrange, KY 40601
RE: Whether County Police Officer Under Merit System May Be a Candidate for
County Judge/Executive or Sheriff While Remaining on Duty as a Police Officer
AGO Corr. No. 93-O-203
Dear Mr. Shaw:
By letter dated January 8, 1993 (probably actually 1993), received by this office on
February 9, 1993, you ask whether it is legal for Oldham County Police Officers, who are under a
county police merit system, to be candidates for County Judge/Executive and Sheriff, while
remaining on duty as county police officers.
For reasons discussed below, we cannot provide a definitive answer regarding the present
circumstances in Oldham County. Points made below, however, may be of assistance.
First, the general rule is that unless a given activity is properly banned, the activity can be
There is no absolute statutory ban in Kentucky on a county police officer under a county
police merit system being a candidate for public office while employed as a police officer. See
the discussion below, however, regarding on duty activity as distinguished from off duty activity.
Your letter gives rise to certain questions that we would need to know the answer to, in
order to provide a definitive view regarding the question you have posed.
(A) Is the Oldham County Police Force covered by a merit system established
pursuant to KRS 78.405?
(B) Has the county police merit board promulgated a rule or regulation pursuant to
KRS 78.405 regarding political activity of Oldham County Police officers? If so, what is the
substance of such rule or regulation?
(C) In asking whether county police officers may be candidates for certain county
offices "while remaining on duty as county police officers," do you mean can police officers
"campaign" for, or in relation to, a public office during actual on-duty work time?
(D) If the answer to the question immediately above is "yes," what does the word
"campaign" include in the circumstances you are concerned with?
Unless we have answers to the questions posed above, and perhaps others that may arise
from those answers, we cannot provide a definitive view regarding how Oldham County Police
officers might be affected by the county police merit system if they are candidates for the offices
you have mentioned.
KRS 78.435 (copy enclosed) bans certain political activities by county police officers
covered by KRS 78.400 to 78.460 (the county police merit system provisions). The provisions of
KRS 78.435 most directly related to an officer's candidacy for public office are subsections (1)
and (4), which provide:
(1) No officer or employee covered by the provisions of KRS 78.400 to
78.460 shall directly or indirectly solicit or receive or be in any manner whatever
concerned in receiving, soliciting or publicizing any assessment, gift, subscription
or contribution to or for any political party or candidate of public office.
(4) No officer or employee covered by KRS 78.400 to 78.460 shall foster, promote, or
be concerned with any actions involving political or religious controversies or prejudices while in
While KRS 78.435 does not contain an express ban on candidacy for public office by
county police officers covered under the provisions of KRS 78.400 to 78.460, subsection (1) of
KRS 78.435 appears to prohibit a county police officer covered under the provisions of KRS
78.400 to 78.460, whether on or off duty, from soliciting or receiving campaign contributions.
Further, in view of KRS 78.435(4), an officer could not directly campaign for public office while
in uniform. See Opinion of the Attorney General (OAG) 81-97 (copy enclosed).
KRS 95.017 (copy enclosed) establishes certain "entitlements" of "uniformed" county
police officers while off duty and out of uniform. KRS 95.017 does not establish an
"entitlement" of a county police officer to be a candidate for public office while employed as a
county police officer, but on the other hand, there is no express ban on an officer being a
In sum, we believe a county police officer covered under a KRS 78.400 to 78.460 county
police merit system can be a candidate for public office (assuming there is no proper local merit
system rule or regulation, or as noted a statute, which would ban such activity). Such an officer
cannot, however, directly campaign for public office while in uniform. KRS 78.435(4) (above).
Further, a county police officer covered under a KRS 78.400 to 78.460 county police merit
system, whether on or off duty, cannot participate in political fund raising activities as described
in KRS 78.435(1)(above). Such an officer thus cannot solicit or receive, directly or indirectly,
campaign contributions for his or her own campaign.
Concerning the promulgation of local rules or regulations regarding candidacy for public
office by public employees, you might find Allen v. Board of Education of Jefferson County, Ky.
App., 584 S.W.2d 408 (1979) of interest. A copy of that case is enclosed for your information.
You might want to consult with the county attorney regarding the specific circumstances
in Oldham County in light of views expressed in this opinions.
Gerard R. Gerhard
Assistant Attorney General