Wednesday, March 07, 2001

Villa Hills amuses, astounds

Saga could end at tonight's special meeting

        VILLA HILLS — Is Villa Hills' long, strange trip — and, man, has it gotten strange — about to be over?

        Or is the whole long, nasty, weird deal going to land in a courtroom, with fired Police Chief Michael “Corky” Brown suing the city for a cool million or more?

        A deal is in the works. It has been since last week. Lots of variations are floating around, but the negotiations all revolve around Mayor Steve Clark, who fired Mr. Brown and City Clerk Sue Kramer in late December, stepping down from the job he vowed never to leave.

        The hot rumor Tuesday was that Mr. Clark was cleaning out his City Hall office. Not quite, it turned out. Some personal items were removed from his desk and office walls, but it didn't appear that the mayor was undertaking a full-scale retreat.

        But is he getting ready to? Will a compromise be worked out? Who knows. There are way too many intangibles on both sides — ego, tempers, paranoia, stubbornness, mendacity, revenge — to handicap the outcome at this stage.

        The best bet is to attend tonight's special meeting at, once again, River Ridge Elementary, a fitting venue given that some of the behavior in this sad episode has resembled that of children.

        To wit:

        It's gotten vicious. Both sides are trading obscene phone calls. Anonymous hate mail has been delivered, the words formed from letters cut from a magazine. A paintball gun was fired at a resident's home. The home of Dixie News reporter Michael Nail was vandalized after he wrote a story one side didn't care for. And, in a move that sets a new standard for a lack of class, a gift-wrapped tampon was left in someone's mailbox.

        This thing had better end soon. With incidents like these, can violence that far away?

        It's gotten personal. During last week's council meeting special counsel Phil Taliaferro — hired to sort out the mess — was complimenting council for trying to work together when he was interrupted with a profane catcall.

        But the real gem was the expression on Mr. Taliaferro's face. He actually looked surprised when accused of being an artist when it comes to baloney. As if he's never heard that before.

        It's gotten petty. At the special council meetings on this topic, supporters of Mr. Brown and Mrs. Kramer place pictures of the pair on tables in the River Ridge cafeteria.

        At last week's meeting a woman, obviously a Clark supporter, took the photos and tossed them on the floor.

        It's gotten entertaining. Also during last week's meeting, John Stephenson, a community and political activist from Fort Mitchell, showed up and offered his services to mediate the dispute.

        Council responded with a basic “thanks, but no thanks,” but Big John — the braggadocios cousin of Survivor contestant Rodger Bingham of Grant County — hung around. When council and Mr. Taliaferro huddled for a two-hour executive session, Mr. Stephenson headed to the microphone and belted out a few songs, including “Make The World Go Away” and “16 Tons.”

        And let me tell you — the guy can flat-out sing.

        It's gotten weird. Mr. Taliaferro's investigation revealed that Mr. Clark badgered Mr. Brown for a bulletproof vest. Seems the mayor was convinced that terrorists were going attack the 1999 New Year's Eve celebration at the World Peace Bell in Newport.

        The mayor also wanted an inventory of the city's body bags.

        It's gotten hokey. After emerging from their executive session at last week's meeting the council members joined hands in an Oprah-inspired moment when you know they'd much rather toss a few chairs at one another like they were guests of Jerry Springer.

        Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics. He can be reached at (859) 578-5581, or by e-mail at

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