Accountable Lawyers

The Kentucky Supreme Court is the ultimate authority over lawyers.  Practicing lawyers are officers of the court and they are governed by the Supreme Court’s Rules of Professional Conduct.

Briefly, here are the high points.

Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct – SCR 3.130

Rule 1.1 Competence

A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.

Rule 1.2 Scope of representation and allocation of authority

A lawyer must honor a client’s decision on the settlement of a civil action or resolution of a criminal proceeding, including whether the client will testify.

A lawyer shall not counsel or assist a client in conduct that the lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent,

Rule 1.3 Diligence

A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.

Rule 1.4 Communication

  • A lawyer shall promptly inform the client of any circumstance which requires the client’s informed consent.
  • A lawyer shall reasonably consult with the client about the means by which the client’s objectives are to be accomplished;
  • A lawyer shall keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter;
  • A lawyer shall promptly comply with reasonable requests for information; and
  • A lawyer shall clearly inform the client when the lawyer cannot do for the client what the lawyer knows the client expects to be done.
  • A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.

Rule 1.5 Fees

Written fee agreements are recommended, but they are not mandatory.

Rule 1.6 Confidentiality of information

A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent.

Rule 1.7 Conflict of interest: current clients

A lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest. A concurrent conflict of interest exists if:

(1) the representation of one client will be directly adverse to another client; or

(2) there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person or by a personal interest of the lawyer.

BUT, a lawyer may represent a client if:

(1) the lawyer reasonably believes that the lawyer will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to each affected client;
(2) the representation is not prohibited by law;
(3) the representation does not involve the assertion of a claim by one client against another client represented by the lawyer in the same litigation or other proceeding before a tribunal; and
(4) each affected client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing. The consultation shall include an explanation of the implications of the common representation and the advantages and risks involved.

Complaints against lawyers are sent to the Kentucky Bar Association for evaluation and possible investigation. The decision to discipline a lawyer is the responsibility of the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Holding Kentucky Judges Accountable

The Judicial Conduct Commission is authorized to take disciplinary action against a sitting Kentucky Judge. The Commission also has authority over trial commissioners, domestic relations commissioners, master commissioners and attorneys who are candidates for judicial office.

The Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct, SCR 4.300, outlines the basic rules of ethics and right conduct under which Kentucky judges must operate. The vast majority of Kentucky judged perform their job functions honorably and honestly, everyone makes mistakes now and then, but there may always be a rotten few. Systems are in place to detect and correct deviations from the accepted norms.

Although the Judicial Conduct Commission may investigate a judge’s performance upon its own initiative, anyone may file a written complaint that will be evaluated and investigated, as appropriate.

The form for a written complaint to the Judicial Conduct Commission may be found here: How to file a complaint.

West Buechel – Split Decision

WEST BUECHEL – MAY 10, 2016. At its regular meeting on Tuesday night, the West Buechel City Council voted upon a Resolution proposed by Council member Toby Clark. The Resolution set out fourteen specific areas of alleged misconduct by Mayor Richards and his staff to be referred to law enforcement officials for investigation and possible criminal prosecution. The six Council members split, with 3 in favor of the Resolution and 3 opposed.

Mayor Richards broke the tie by voting “no.”

City of West Buechel
City Council Resolution
Series 2016, number ___

WHEREAS: Kentucky’s Auditor of Public Accounts has recently called into question whether the citizens of West Buechel are capable of self-government or operating a City according to the Rule of Law.

WHEREAS: The current administration has repeatedly ignored and disrespected well established rules for budgeting, spending, financial reporting, personnel management, record keeping, office management, availability, responsiveness and transparency. These failures have exposed the City to expensive litigation, inconvenienced the general public and fostered an environment of mistrust, hostility and disrespect for the law.

WHEREAS: Kentucky’s Penal Code has criminalized extreme levels of Official Misconduct (KRS 522.020 & KRS 522.030) and Abuse of Public Trust (KRS 522.050) along with other offenses. The Kentucky Revised Statutes impose fines and penalties for lesser violations of certain laws regulating the duties of City official.

NOW THEREFOR BE IT RESOLVED, the following general categories of misconduct and non-compliance, without being limited thereto, shall be referred to appropriate law enforcement agencies and officers for investigation and possible criminal prosecution of the responsible parties.

  1. Payroll payments in excess of amounts authorized by law.
  2. Spending in significant excess of budgeted amounts.
  3. Illegal termination of employees.
  4. Settlement of legal claims against the City without budget authority, without proper documentation, and without Council knowledge or approval.
  5. Willful failure to comply with statutory procurement procedures and intentional concealment of unauthorized purchases from City Council.
  6. Negligent late payments that result in substantial penalties to the City and intentional misrepresentations to the Council.
  7. Falsifying official records to conceal job performance failures.
  8. Failure to comply with established City personnel policies.
  9. Illegal electronic eavesdropping at City Hall public areas, without notice.
  10. Use of City vehicles for personal purposes without complying with City policies and procedures.
  11. Failure to comply with City credit card use, record keeping and reporting requirements.
  12. Failure to comply with financial reporting requirements.
  13. Failure to comply with annual audit requirements.
  14. Failure to comply with bond and oath of office requirements.

West Buechel’s Cash Hemorrhage

According to recently released bank account summary reports, West Buechel’s cash reserves have dropped $472,000 since last October. This brings Mayor Rick Richard’s total deficit spending to about $668,000 since he took office January 1, 2015.

Former Mayor Sharon Fowler said, “This is the same thing he did last time he was Mayor. It was a big mess to clean up after him.”

Government Regulations

This is not a political rant against the evils of government regulations, and it is not a defense or justification for government controls either. This is merely a recognition that government bureaucrats at all levels, from local to national, have their fingers in nearly every pie.

It is a simple undeniable fact of modern life in the United States of America: There are a lot of rules. All these rules can be a pain in the neck if you are in business, but the rules can be used to your advantage if you are just an ordinary consumer.  There aren’t many professions or skilled trades that are free of government oversight.

Here is an incomplete list of occupations that Kentucky state laws have something to say about:

  1. Alcohol Counselors
  2. Applied Behavior Analysts
  3. Architects
  4. Art Therapist
  5. Auctioneers
  6. Audiologists
  7. Barbers
  8. Charities
  9. Child Care Centers
  10. Chiropractors
  11. Corporations
  12. Cosmetologists
  13. Dental Specialists
  14. Dentists
  15. Dietitians
  16. Driver Training Instructors
  17. Driver Training Schools
  18. Drug Counselors
  19. Electricians
  20. Embalmers
  21. Emergency Medical Services
  22. Estheticians
  23. Funeral Directors
  24. HVAC Contractors
  25. Interpretation For The Deaf
  26. Land Surveyors
  27. Landscape Architecture
  28. Lawyers
  29. Licensed Diabetes Educators
  30. Lie Detector Examiners
  31. Massage Therapist
  32. Medical Imaging
  33. Medical Laboratories
  34. Nursing Homes
  35. Nutritionists
  36. Occupational Therapists
  37. Ophthalmic Dispensers
  38. Optometrists
  39. Orthotists
  40. Osteopaths
  41. Pedorthists
  42. Pharmacies
  43. Pharmacists
  44. Physical Therapists
  45. Physicians
  46. Plumbers
  47. Podiatrists
  48. Practical Nurses
  49. Private Investigators
  50. Professional Counselors
  51. Professional Engineers
  52. Professional Geologists
  53. Prosthetists
  54. Psychologists
  55. Public Accountants
  56. Radiation Therapy
  57. Real Estate Appraisers
  58. Real Estate Brokers
  59. Real Estate Salesmen
  60. Registered Nurses
  61. Respiratory Care Practitioners
  62. Social Workers
  63. Specialists In Hearing Aids
  64. Speech Pathologists
  65. Veterinarians

Every one of these business trades and professions is regulated by a government agency in some way. Some are more tightly controlled than others, but each in its own way has a higher authority in a position to yank their leash if they misbehave.

What does this mean for you?

If someone treats you badly or unfairly, usually there is something you can do about it. The trick is to know what to complain about, how to complain and where to send it.

Accountability

There are not many aspects of modern Twenty-first Century life in America that allow one to do just as you like, the way you like it and to disregard the legitimate interests of others. The rules of modern life are the laws we have made, and there are a lot of them.

There are state statutes, administrative regulations, rules, policies, inspectors, building codes, rules of professional ethics, ordinances, orders, occupational licensing, competency examinations, insurance requirements, permits, complaints, enforcement proceedings, fines and penalties.

There are police, prosecutors, arrests, courts, judges, advocates, lawyers, jailers, constables, sheriffs, process servers, bail bonds, juries, depositions, affidavits, incarceration, trials, hearings, appeals, notices, subpoenas and an occasional execution.

Someone is looking over your shoulder enforcing the rules of the game. The rules are different for private individuals living private lives and for those who engage in commercial business activity in pursuit of money. Even at that, in most locations, you still can’t dynamite a stump in your own back yard just for fun. There are rules.

The rules are there for a reason. Most of the time the rules are there for a good reason. Life works better when everyone plays by the same set of rules.

The rules are all written. There are no secret rules. Everyone has easy access to the rules. You can learn the rules.

The rules apply equally to everyone. You may have a hard time believing this, but they do. Some people, however, understand the rules better, or they can afford to pay for experts.

The better you understand the rules, the fewer problems you will have. Not playing by the rules causes problems for everyone, but mostly it causes problems for the person breaking the rules.

That’s what accountability is all about. Accountability is about knowing the rules, playing by the rules and looking out to be sure others play by the rules too.

No cheating.

 

Gross negligence

In 2015 Kimberly Richards, Clerk/Treasurer for the City of West Buechel, was late on four separate occasions in reporting and making payments to Kentucky Retirement System, resulting in $4,000 in statutory penalty assessments being imposed upon the City.

The payments and the reports are due on or before the tenth of the month for employee retirement contributions, based on payroll of the preceding month.

In March, 2015, Kim Richards did not file either of the two required reports or make a bank transfer until March, 19, nine days late.

The resulting mandatory $1,000 penalty has still not been paid. Kimberly Richards has not paid it.

In May, 2015, the required reports and payment were not submitted until May, 21, eleven days late. Kim Richards has not paid that $1,000 fine either.

August was nineteen days late and September was six days late. Once again in February, 2016 a report was twelve days late.

All this adds up to a $5,000 unpaid debt West Buechel owes the Kentucky Retirement System.I know these Penalty Invoices have not been paid because Jennifer Jones, Assistant General Council for Kentucky Retirement Systems wrote it in an email to me on April 19, 2016.

Anyone else besides Mayor Richards ex-wife would have been fired for such repetitive failures.

See for yourself. Here are the Penalty Invoices from the Kentucky Retirement System.

West Buechel penalty invoices by Southern Specialty Law Publishing

West Buechel Mayor’s Financial Problems

Richard Richards, Mayor of the tiny Jefferson County City of West Buechel since January, 2015, is responsible for a two million dollar City budget, but he’s having difficulty managing his own personal business.

According to public records available online from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office property tax search page, Mayor Richards is still delinquent for $4,300 in 2015 property taxes on eight parcels of land.  All but one of these parcels are located within the City of West Buechel. Richard’s company, Century Lighting Services, Inc., owns three parcels of land in West Buechel, and Richards has not paid 2015 Jefferson County property tax on that real estate either.

If Richards has not paid his Jefferson County taxes, the obvious question is if he has paid his West Buechel property taxes. Kimberly Richards, who is Richard Richards’ ex-wife, has been serving as West Buechel’s City Clerk/Treasurer under Mayor Richards.  An April 7, 2016 Open Records Request to Ms. Richards, to examine West Buechel’s property tax bills, has been ignored.

Kimberly Richards resides at the West Buechel property owned by Richards’ company, Century Lighting. Before becoming City Clerk/Treasurer, Ms. Richards was the bookkeeper/manager for Mayor Richards’ businesses. She continues to do that for Mayor Richards along side her work for West Buechel.

As City Clerk/Treasurer, Kim Richards is primarily responsible for collecting and accounting for all City taxes. Her work for Rick Richards personally involves paying his taxes.

It’s a sweet deal when the person who is both paying and collecting your taxes is also the official custodian of all the City tax records, and not shy about shamelessly denying access to those documents.

Mayor Richards is also the defendant in two recent civil lawsuits. Discover Bank v. Richards is a Jefferson Circuit Court debt collection action, case no. 15-CI-004873. Fox v. Richards is a District Court, case no. 16-C-003246, action alleging fraud in Richards’ handling tenant security deposits and also seeking penalties for Richards’ noncompliance with  statutory requirements relating to City financial reports.

One of the more interesting aspects of these lawsuits is that West Buechel’s City Attorney, John Casey McCall, is also representing Richard Richards and Kimberly Richards personally.