Friday, February 09, 2001

Mayors may have to cite reasons for firings

By Patrick Stack
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FRANKFORT — Fired city officials could be guaranteed a written reason for their dismissal from the mayor under a bill to be introduced in the Kentucky House of Representatives.

        The bill, drafted by Rep. Jim Callahan, D-Wilder, with help from the Kentucky League of Cities, would require mayors to provide a written statement with reasons for an appointed city official's removal from office.

        Northern Kentucky has seen its fair share of controversy between mayors and city employees — most recently in Villa Hills, Ludlow and Dayton.

        Nonelected city officials, such as police chiefs, city managers and fire chiefs, deserve a written reason for their removal, Mr. Callahan said. No law now required mayors to state reasons.

        “I think that's totally unfair,” Mr. Callahan said.

        Mr. Callahan acknowledged that the recent firing of Villa Hills Police Chief Michael “Corky” Brown played a role in his decision to introduce the bill, but it was a small role.

        Mr. Brown was fired on Dec. 28 by Mayor Steve Clark, who also that day fired City Clerk Sue Kramer. Citing confidentially laws, Mr. Clark has not said why the two were terminated, though he has been under pressure from City Council, a group of residents and the media to divulge his reasons.

        Freedom of Information Act requests for personnel documents that might illustrate the reasons for the termination were filed with the current Villa Hills city clerk by the Enquirer. The clerk's response on Thursday yielded only a self-evaluation completed by one of the employees and a letter from the current clerk stating that other personnel documents may exist that she is not aware of because she is new to the job.

        In Dayton, Ky., the mayor was impeached and removed in December in connection with a number of charges, including several that involved his threats to fire Police Chief Craig Taylor.

        In Ludlow, last year, council attempted to demote a police officer who fought the demotion — saying he was denied due process. The heated, monthslong public dispute may have been a factor in the November ticket victory that swept out all incumbent members of council.

        Mr. Callahan said he expects to file the bill by early next week.

        Kentucky League of Cities representatives said their main concern for the bill was maintaining the executive power of the mayor to fire city officials. The proposed bill will not affect that power, President Sylvia Lovely said.

        “The main thing I was trying to do was not to dilute the executive power of the mayor,” Mr. Callahan said.

        Hobert Strange, police chief in Wilder and president of the Northern Kentucky Police Chiefs Association, said he supports the idea that officials would be guaranteed a reason for their dismissal.

        “If a chief is dismissed, at least you know why he's dismissed,” Chief Strange said.


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