Lexington official faces stalking charges, ordered to stay away from board member

An elected Fayette County official with a long history of legal troubles has been served a temporary order that requires him to stay away from and not contact a former elected official who served on the same conservation board.

Christopher Rowe, an author and former Fayette County Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor, filed a petition this week for an interpersonal protection order against Matt Miniard, who was first elected to the district in 2018 and re-elected in 2022.

The temporary interpersonal protection order was issued after Miniard drove by Rowe’s home and threatened Rowe and his wife.

On Wednesday, Fayette Family Court Judge Tiffany Yahr issued a civil summons requiring Miniard to appear in court at 8:30 a.m. June 1. In the meantime, Miniard can’t approach Rowe or his wife or contact him directly or through a third party, according to court documents.

Also on June 1, Miniard is scheduled to appear at 1 p.m. on an unrelated criminal stalking charge involving one of Miniard’s tenants, according to court records.

Miniard did not immediately return emails seeking comment.

In his petition for the interpersonal protection order, Rowe said Miniard drove by his home more than once in early May.

On May 11 around 3:30 p.m. Miniard drove by Rowe’s home and stopped.

“Miniard returned, stopped in front our house, and yelled my name. I wasn’t sure who it was so I asked and he replied, ‘Matt Miniard.’ He then proceeded to verbally abuse me, referring to me as a ‘piece of s---’ and a ‘coward,’” according to Rowe’s petition. Rowe then told Miniard he was calling the police.

“He then said, ‘I’m going to f---ing kill you,’ and finally drove away,” according to Rowe’s petition.

Rowe said he has also talked with police and the Fayette County attorney’s office about pursuing criminal charges against Miniard.

Rowe, who was first elected through a write-in ballot to the board in 2016, said he resigned from the position in 2022 because of Miniard.

“I left because it got to be too much,” Rowe said of Miniard’s actions on the board. Rowe frequently stood up to Miniard during board meetings when Miniard would verbally attack staff, he said.

No way to remove Miniard

This isn’t Miniard’s first run-in with the law or his first time being accused of harassment of elected Fayette County Soil and Water Conservation District supervisors and staff. The Fayette County Soil and Water Conservation District helps connect people with programs and resources for various conservation efforts. The elected supervisors, who serve for four years, are not paid. Fayette County’s district was recently awarded as one of the best in the state.

It’s a position that garners very little interest from voters and is the last race on the ballot.

The first three or four people on the ballot are elected, according to Rowe. There are times when not enough people run for the position and a state conservation board has to appoint someone.

Even with Miniard’s pending charges, it appears nothing can be done to remove him from elected office, said John Wright, the chairman of the conservation district.

“It takes away from the very valuable work we are doing at the conservation district,” Wright said. “I am afraid we are going to lose the staff that has made the conservation district so successful.”

According to Kentucky law, once someone is elected to a soil and water conservation district seat, there is no mechanism to remove a supervisor for disruptive behavior or for being charged or convicted of a crime. The only way to do so is if the General Assembly votes to impeach him.

Rowe said he understands that due to political reasons, there’s reasons why it’s not easy to remove an elected official.

“There has to be a better way to remove bad actors and respect the electoral process as well,” Rowe said.

Fayette County conservation board members have written state legislators to ask if they would support legislation that would allow local boards to remove a member. That removal would have to be approved by “the state Soil and Water Conservation Commission, achieving a balance between the interest of the district and their members,” according to a January letter the district supervisors sent to Frankfort legislators.

Wright said their proposal has received a tepid response so far in Frankfort.

“We have talked with people at the state level and there’s been very little interest,” Wright said. “We are going to keep pushing.”

Miniard sues the board

Miniard sued the district and some of his fellow supervisors twice in 2022. Both cases were dismissed. Miniard has appealed the decision, according to court records.

Miniard, who filed the lawsuits without an attorney, accused the district of an assortment of things, including removing him from committees and failing to comply with open records requests allegations the district’s lawyers have denied.

According to exhibits attached to those lawsuits, Miniard called, texted or emailed conservation district staff more than 30 times from November 2018 to March 2022, often threatening staff.

Some of those 30 communications include:

  • Nov 8, 2018: Called and demanded to know what his powers were as new supervisor and how much he would be paid

  • Jan. 8 to Feb. 11, 2020: Called, texted or emailed staff at least six different times for a copy of a lease between the district and the United States Department of Agriculture. Staff told him on Jan. 8 that information was kept by the federal government and gave him contact information. He still repeatedly asked the staff for the same information.

  • Feb. 18, 2020: Texted staff again and it was “so broken and belligerent that it could not be understood,” according to an exhibit filed in reply to a court document.

  • April 6, 2020: Demanded the supervisors meeting be canceled because he did not have video conferencing capabilities.

  • April 14, 2020: After being sent the meeting link three different times, Miniard said he could not find the link. Staff sent it to him a fourth time.

  • April 14, 2020: Miniard questioned new anti-bullying and harassment policies and threatened to sue any supervisor “who tries to correct him or enforce the policies that he had just voted to approve.”

  • June 9, 2020: When confronted with documented acts of bullying against staff during a board meeting, Miniard admitted to committing “one to three acts of aggression” but not 30, according to a spreadsheet of interactions between Miniard and staff.

  • June 9, 2020: Suggested Heather Silvanik, the operations manager for the district, work during her maternity leave.

  • June 10-October 2020: Raised concerns about Silvanik while she was on maternity leave and demanded termination for insubordination.

  • Jan. 1, 2021: Began aggressively shouting at employees and board members verbally attacking (Silvanik) asking for proof of his acts of harassment and bullying, claiming the (Silvanik) should be terminated due to insubordination.

In court documents, Miniard claims Silvanik and the board are trying to prevent him from doing his duties as a supervisor.

Due to his sometimes aggressive behavior, Wright is the main person that deals with Miniard.

Other legal troubles

Miniard has been accused of improper conduct outside of his duties on the conservation district and is currently facing a stalking second degree charge involving one of his tenants.

According to a May 4 arrest citation, Miniard told his tenant “he would shoot him on two separate dates at two different locations.” The tenant alleges Miniard has been trying to evict him by turning off his electricity and removing his belongings from his room, according to a citation filed by the court.

Miniard has also served time in jail for assault, according to court records.

In July 2012, his then-girlfriend, whom he has a child with, filed for a protective order. In August he was arrested for violating that protective order. In September he was sentenced to 90 days for violating that protection order, fourth degree assault and terroristic threatening.

In 2013, he served 90 days for fourth degree assault against his girlfriend. He also filed a complaint against the girlfriend, alleging she had knocked his glasses off his head, according to court documents.

Miniard has said he entered an Alford plea pertaining to the domestic violence charges. An Alford plea means the defendant does not admit guilt but admits the evidence could lead to a conviction.

In addition to running for the soil and water conservation district, Miniard ran unsuccessfully for council at-large in 2018 and 2022.

Miniard has repeatedly claimed the justice system is broken and does not work.

“The system is so rigged you can’t win,” Miniard told the Herald-Leader in 2018.