County attorney Yvette Kirchoff has been suspended following an incident at the courthouse last week involving her removal of a Confederate-era flag from the plaza near the Civil War monument.
The Knox County Commissioners on Tuesday signed a contract for legal services with HartBell LLC, 513 Main St., specifically with attorney Graham Dycus.
Commission president Kellie Streeter declined to provide details regarding the change, saying it was “an employee matter” that would be worked out over the course of “many meetings.”
But she did say that Dycus would continue to serve as interim county attorney until the situation with Kirchoff was fully resolved.
Streeter also said the exact terms of Kirchoff's suspension have yet to be determined.
The suspension, county officials say, stems from an incident at the courthouse on Aug. 23.
Kirchoff, in a display of opposition, removed an early Confederate-era flag from its post next to the Civil War monument, took it inside the courthouse and, according to multiple reports, stomped on it in frustration and anger.
The flag in question was not the Confederate flag largely associated with white supremacist groups but, rather, the flag used by the Confederacy for a brief time in 1861. The flag is similar to flags from the United States in its infancy in that it includes a circle of white stars against a navy blue background in the upper left corner. The rest of the flag is made up of three wide stripes — a white stripe flanked by two red.
A set of seven flags is erected adjacent to the monument every Memorial Day and left up through Labor Day. The flags are owned and cared for by the Marine Corps League, according to long-time member and flag caretaker Doyle Antley.
The Confederate flag in question was erected along with the other six at the Civil War monument by the Marine Corps League during a Memorial Day ceremony in May. The flags are typically left there through Labor Day, Antley said.
Streeter said she first received an anonymous complaint concerning the Confederate flag in late May. She wasn't familiar with the flag or its history; still, she ordered it taken down, and for many weeks, that pole was empty.
Her fellow commissioners, Trent Hinkle and Tim Ellerman, in early August questioned the absence of one of the seven flags following an executive session, and since nothing had ever come of that initial complaint, they directed maintenance crews to put it back up.
Both Streeter and Hinkle argue that, at the time, the three commissioners didn't fully understand that it was an early Confederate flag.
But then things took a direct turn when local attorney Michael Edwards, a Marine Corps veteran, saw the flag and notified Kirchoff, among other local elected officials.
Kirchoff eventually returned the flag to courthouse maintenance crews who quickly put the flag back up.
Streeter, however, ordered it be taken back down, eventually replacing it with an Indiana state flag instead. She said now that everyone is fully aware of the flag and what it stands for, it will never again be raised outside the courthouse.
Antely, speaking on behalf of the Marine Corps League last week, said the group didn't understand the ongoing fuss and thought the flag a way to honor the Confederate dead, nothing more.
Kirchoff has said she has no comment regarding the incident, and she reiterated that via text message Tuesday morning when the Sun-Commercial reached out to her following the commissioner's meeting.