West Buechel’s Mayor, Rick Richards, may be removed from office by the City Council for “misconduct, incapacity, or willful neglect in the performance of the duties of his office,” upon a unanimous City Council vote. Council member Toby Clark and three other Council members plan to proceed with the removal effort for the following five reasons:
1. Failure to account for public funds.
Bank records show the City had beginning account balances totaling $1,858,014 on July 1, 2015 and an ending balance of $1,0005,623 on June 30, 2016, for a deficit of $852,391. However, Mayor Richards FY 2015-16 Budget Report shows receipts of $1,628,362 and spending of $2,270,915, for that same period, with a deficit of only $642,553. The disparity between the bank records and Mayor Richards reports leaves $209,838 unaccounted for. Council member Clark pointed this out at the September City Council meeting, with Mayor Richards present, and there have been no clarifications or explanations offered.
2. Failure to produce an audit for FY 2014-2015.
The City is required to have its financial statements audited by independent CPAs or the State Auditor every year. The final audit report must be completed and presented to the City Council by February 1 of the following year, and published. The independent audit report for FY 2014-2015 was due February 1, 2016, eight months ago, but the audit process has not yet been started. By all reports, the Richards administration has not produced any financial statements for any CPA to audit, nor has Richards contracted with any CPA firm to do the job. These failures are subject matter in a lawsuit pending in Jefferson Circuit Court against Mayor Rick Richards and the City Clerk-Treasurer, Kim Richards, personally. That action was filed in March, 2016.
3. Over-budget spending.
Mayor Richards own annual Budget Report for FY 2015-16 shows over spending of $134,000 in Administrative, $194,000 in the Police Department and $63,000 in Code Enforcement. That is $391,000 over the combined $1,428,000 budgeted by the City Council for those three departments. Mayor Richards went 27.5% over budget in these areas and he never sought or obtained Council approval for this excess spending. There are some good reasons to suspect Mayor Richards’ annual budget report understated the amounts actually expended. See item 1, above.
4. Unauthorized employee payroll.
Pay for City employees is set by Ordinance approved by the City Council. Richards has given extravagant pay raises to various City employees, including the friends he has hired, in excess of the existing employee pay scale. City payroll expenses have roughly doubled from January, 2015 to August, 2016.
5. Accepting additional unauthorized pay.
West Buechel’s Mayor is paid once a month, as established by City Ordinance. In January, 2015, Mayor Richards received two paychecks, for a total of thirteen paydays to him from the tax payers for calendar year 2015.