Sunday, December 31, 2000

Party crowd


Villa Hills a mess, both then and now

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        Looking for a group to ring in the New Year with tonight?

        Hook up with some Villa Hills city officials. Those party animals know how to howl.

        When head Party Dude Denny Stein was mayor, he would gladly toss the city's credit card on the bar — any bar — and set 'em up for the gang.

        That's pretty much the story out of a state audit released last week that gave Mr. Stein and other members of council a public relations hangover.

        Over the last five years, city officials spent about $44,000 on items State Auditor Ed Hatchett called “questionable.” Most of the questions had to do with missing documentation or receipts not in the city's records.

        All the money was accounted for, though — it just wasn't accounted for very well.

        And there were plenty of trips to bars and restaurants and money spent on parties that, according to Mr. Hatchett,
served no public purpose.

        Like the 1996 Christmas party at the tony Gatehouse Tavern, where a shot of Baileys Irish Cream went for $5. We know this because a bar tab from that bash was included in the audit.

        The crew also was throwing back Manhattans, quaffing Heinekens, shooting Canadian Clubs, sipping Glenlivets, savoring apricot brandy and pounding Jack Daniel's.

        Mr. Hatchett surmised that running up an $818 bar tab on the taxpayers' backs is not such a good idea. Few would argue that.

        The former spending practices of the city were certainly fun but obviously misguided. You can make the case that some city employees — particularly police officers and public works crew members making only around $20,000 a year — deserve a night out like that.

        Maybe. But when it comes out, it looks bad. And this looks bad.

        But the real question here is what has current Mayor Steve Clark been drinking?

        King Steve dodged a bullet earlier this year when a Kenton County grand jury did not indict him for allegedly skirting state bidding laws with a $25,025 check for sidewalk construction.

        Shortly after he escaped indictment, Mr. Clark pledged to work with the other members of council, to try to get along in a city that hasn't gotten along. He even quoted Scripture.

        Well, Lord Steve was quoting the Bible probably because he thinks he wrote it.

        How does Czar Steve react? He claims there is missing money — which there is not, according to the audit — and then promptly fires veteran Police Chief Michael “Corky” Brown and longtime city Clerk Sue Kramer.

        Those dismissals followed the dumping of City Attorney Lawson Walker, who had 20 years in the job.

        Prime Minister Steve seems to have gone on a purge. And he won't tell us why.

        Il Duce Steve said he isn't accusing anybody of taking money, which is good because none is missing. And he won't reveal the reasons for the purge, saying personnel matters are confidential.

        So confidential that he held a press conference and posted an armed cop out front of the city building to keep his political opponents out.

        With Shah Steve not talking, there's a lot of conjecture that revenge played a role in the firings. All three of those cut loose were involved in the investigation into that sidewalk check.

        So Ayatollah Steve did what all good dictators do. He eliminated those he felt were against him.

       Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics for The Kentucky Enquirer. He can be reached at 578-5581, or by e-mail at Pcrowley9@home.com.

       



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