Sunday, January 07, 2001

Villa Hills hires law firm to look into firings

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        VILLA HILLS — City Council Saturday passed a municipal order hiring a Covington law firm to look into the recent firing of the city's police chief by the mayor.

        In a special council meeting, four members of council passed the order — one voted against it — hiring Taliaferro, Mehling, Shirooni, Carran & Keys to conduct an investigation into “possible misconduct or neglect of duty” on the part of Mayor Steve Clark when he fired Police Chief Michael “Corky” Brown late last month.

        Mayor Clark said that short of being ordered by a court, he would not discuss the reasons for why he fired Chief Brown.

        “I will not divulge anything to put the city at risk,” Mayor Clark said after the meeting. He said it was a personnel matter. The former chief has hired an attorney to contest the firing.

        The special council meet ing Saturday was just the latest wrinkle in the political drama being played out in this ordinarily quiet, upper-middle-class residential community of about 8,000.

        The city's attorney resigned last month at the request of the mayor, and the police chief and City Clerk Sue Kramer were fired.

        The mayor himself steered clear of an indictment over a city check that he said was mistakenly sent to a concrete company; the $25,000 check was for work not put out for bid, a violation of state law. Both the Kentucky Attorney General's Office and the Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney's Office investigated.

        On top of that, a state audit report late last month questioned more than $44,000 in city spending that included parties, bar bills and travel that the report said apparently did not serve a public purpose.

        The meeting at the city's tiny Municipal Building on Rogers Road quickly filled to capacity and spilled into the hallway. There were fewer than 25 chairs, and many stood.

        The audience was not invited to speak during the special meeting, and no signs or placards were displayed.

        Donna Vogt, a Villa Hills resident, circulated a petition after the meeting calling for the reinstatement of the police chief and city clerk. She said the petition, which had about 75 signatures, will be presented to the mayor at the Jan. 17 council meeting.

        “There's been a division here,” said her husband, Ed Vogt. “It's broadened out to the community, not just city council.”

        Councilman Mike Sadouskas introduced the municipal order that retained the law firm for the investigation. Mr. Sadouskas, Councilmen Bob Kramer, Tim Sogar and Denny Stein voted in favor of it. Mr. Kramer is the husband of Mrs. Kramer, the fired city clerk. Councilman Bob Krems opposed it.

        “There are certain things I'd love to discuss, but I can't,” said Mayor Clark at the outset, citing possible litigation. “My hands are tied.

        “I did what I thought was right,” he said. “We need to run this city more professionally, and that's what I'm trying to do.”

        Mr. Sadouskas was shaking his head following the meeting, which lasted less than an hour and was not marred by shouting or angry exchanges, in spite of the acrimonious relationship between the mayor and council.

        “I hate this,” said Mr. Sadouskas, slumping into a chair after the meeting. “This has nothing to do with politics. Two people's careers have been ruined, and I think it's worth taking a look at.”

        A woman approached him and shook his hand. “Thank you,” she said. “I'm Corky's daughter.”

        Talk of impeachment or calls for his resignation are unpersuasive, the mayor said.

        “I'm not going anywhere,” he said. “I'm not going to be railroaded out of town.”


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- Villa Hills hires law firm to look into firings