A dramatic turn in this troubled little town came today when four City Council members filed notice of a Special Council meeting for October 25, 2016, to conduct a public hearing to remove Mayor Rick Richards from office. In general, Mayor Richards has been charged with neglect of duty and other misconduct. Richards will be given a list of specific charges so that he may prepare to defend himself at the public hearing.
The four Council members, Toby Clark, Clara Crawford, Loy Crawford and Joseph Mattingly, have long been dissatisfied with Richards’ management, hiring and firing practices, unauthorized employee pay, secrecy and over budget spending. The two other City Council members, Elizabeth Bierbaum and Janie Mosely, have been strong supporters of Mayor Richards in the past.
A City Council can remove a sitting Mayor only with a unanimous vote.
The regular monthly West Buechel City Council is tomorrow night, Tuesday, October 11at 6 PM.
Through an Open Records request of City Council member Toby Clark, we have obtained several West Buechel bank account statements showing the balances on June 30, 2015, at the start of the 2015-16 Fiscal Year, and also for June 30, 2016 at the end of the year.
These bank account statements show cash on hand declined by $843,986.00 during that twelve month period.
Mayor Richards’ Budget Report for the 2015-2016 Fiscal Year shows a deficit of only $642,553.00.
The $201,433.00 discrepancy between the bank records and Mayor Richards’ Budget Report has yet to be explained. When the issue was raised at a recent City Council meeting, Rick Richards’ ex-wife and City Clark-Treasurer was overheard to say, “Oh, it’s only a bookkeeping error.”
In a bold and unprecedented move, West Buechel’s beleaguered Mayor, Rick Richards, clearly signals the world that he can spend public funds any way he sees fit, without answering to anyone. With the assistance of his long time associate and business partner, City Clerk-Treasurer Kim Richards, a check for $10,350 was issued and cashed this August.
Rick and Kim Richards refuse to disclose to whom the money was paid and for what public purpose it was expended.
Our Open Records request for a copy of the check, along with all documentation supporting the spending, resulted in the receipt of a redacted check image, with the name of the payee and the purpose of the payment blacked out. We also received a written statement from Ms. Richards that “the City is not in possession of any supporting documentation.”
We plan to submit this issue to the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office for an Open Records decision, based upon our opinion that all expenditures of public funds are open to public inspection under Kentucky law.
In Rick Richards’ second week in office as the newly elected Mayor, in January, 2015, the employment of a probationary West Buechel Police Officer was terminated by him, for reasons unknown. It’s not really necessary to have cause to terminate a probationary Police Officer. The Police Officer’s Bill of Rights does not apply to probationers during the first six months of employment.
Nonetheless, this particular Police Officer felt aggrieved and claimed the firing was retaliatory against her efforts to expose criminal wrongdoing by another Police Officer. In addition, she claimed sexual harassment and she threatened to sue the City.
(1) She was given a check for the difference between the unemployment compensation she actually received and the net pay she would have received had she remained on the payroll from January to the middle of April, 2015.
(2) She was put back on the payroll at full pay, as if she were a genuine City employee, through the end of 2015. She never actually reported for work during that time.
(3) She received full health insurance coverage paid for by the City for all of 2015, as if she were an actual employee.
(4) She received full CERS retirement contribution from the City (17% – 18% of gross pay). as if she were an actual employee.
Combining all that with Social Security and Medicare employer tax contributions, this settlement agreement cost the City about $50,000.
This is how the settlement was managed by Mayor Rick Richards.
(1) The settlement was never properly documented or formalized. The terminated employee accepted the benefits of the settlement, but she never signed a written settlement agreement.
(2) The City Council was never consulted or informed of the settlement, and there was no budget authorization for it. It was a secret deal.
(3) The expense of the settlement was buried in the payroll budget, the CERS retirement contribution budget and the employee health insurance budget.
So, it was a secret deal deceptively disguised, which involved the falsification of every City financial report issued by Mayor Rick Richards for 2015.
Kentucky law requires municipalities to follow certain procedures for purchases of goods or services over $20,000. They may:
Piggy back on state purchase contracts;
Adopt the Local Model Procurement Code (KRS 45A.343), or;
Advertise for bids under KRS 424.260
In the Fall of 2015, West Buechel’s Mayor, Rick Richards purchased a new $25,000 vehicle for the West Buechel Police Department from and out of state dealership. The City of West Buechel has not adopted the Local Model Procurement Code and there was no advertisement for bids. To complicate matters, the City’s budget made no provision for the purchase of vehicles.
The direct legal penalties for violating KRS 424.260 appear to be nearly non-existent, even if significant off-budget spending might expose the Mayor to personal liability for making such a purchase without legal authorization. However, despite the number of times is has been repeated over the years, it never seems to sink in. “It’s not the crime. It’s the cover-up.”
(1) Mayor Rick Richards issued two consecutive checks, on the same date, for the purchase of this one vehicle. One check was for $19,500 and the second was for $9,500, for a total of $25,000.
(2) The check reports distributed to the West Buechel City Council omitted these two checks.
(3) The Annual Budget Report for FY 2015-2016 buried the vehicle purchase in the category “Maintenance & Repairs.”
Mayor Richards did not consult with the City Council regarding this expenditure, he did not ask for budget authorization and to this day the City Council has not been informed by the Mayor of the vehicle purchase. However, it appears that Mayor Richards and Clark-Treasurer Richards took pains to hide the purchase from the Council.
In addition to the purchase price of $25,000, there was also $4,230 expended to equip the vehicle for use as an unmarked police car. This combined $29,230 expense was off-budget and unauthorized by the City Council.
The documents we obtained through a January, 2016 Open Records request are included below.
There was a second vehicle purchased during this same time period. The circumstances seem to be the same but the specific details are still unknown.
WEST BUECHEL, KY – Copies of bank statements obtained by way of an Open Record request establish the amount of cash the City of West Buechel had in the bank on January 1, 2015, when Mayor Rick Richards took office. When compared to bank records from July 7, 2016, the city appears to have spent about $992,000 more than it took in during that 18 month period.
Rick Richards’ financial reporting for that same period shows spending of about $664,000 in excess of receipts.
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.
Payroll payments in excess of amounts authorized by law.
Spending in significant excess of budgeted amounts.
Illegal termination of employees.
Settlement of legal claims against the City without budget authority, without proper documentation, and without Council knowledge or approval.
Willful failure to comply with statutory procurement procedures and intentional concealment of unauthorized purchases from City Council.
Negligent late payments that result in substantial penalties to the City and intentional misrepresentations to the Council.
Falsifying official records to conceal job performance failures.
Failure to comply with established City personnel policies.
Illegal electronic eavesdropping at City Hall public areas, without notice.
Use of City vehicles for personal purposes without complying with City policies and procedures.
Failure to comply with City credit card use, record keeping and reporting requirements.
Failure to comply with financial reporting requirements.
Failure to comply with annual audit requirements.
Failure to comply with bond and oath of office requirements.
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.”
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.
How did Richard Richards, a recently convicted drug dealer, win the election for Mayor of West Buechel and, as a felon, take office? The answer is simple. He and his lawyer lied.
An information void
The Louisville press coverage of Richards’ arrest and guilty plea in the months leading up to the November, 2014, general election was sporadic and incomplete. Richards undertook an aggressive propaganda campaign to paint a picture of himself as an innocent man caught up in the jaws of legal technicalities and over-zealous law enforcement.
Throw Mother under the bus
Richards complained that he was in great pain from pinched nerves in his lumbar spine, and the insurance company stopped paying for his much needed pain medication.
Richards explained that his mother in Florida shipped a few extra prescription pain pills to him without his knowledge, but she was goofy enough to tell FedEx what was in the package. Supposedly, that’s how law enforcement knew oxycodone was in the shipment. Mom let the cat out of the bag herself, according to Rick Richards..
Bashing in Richards’ front door because of Mom’s unthinking generosity and concern sounded like a gross over-reaction by the police. Poor Rick Richards was being victimized by government thugs.
After the election, Richards offered that he refused to tell the police who shipped the pills, because he didn’t want to get his mother into trouble.
These two stories cannot both be true. If narcotics agents knew about the shipment because Mom told the FedEx driver, law enforcement did not need Richards to talk. If police didn’t know who sent the package because Richards refuse to tell them, then law enforcement found out about the pill package some other way, and not because Mom gabbed too much.
That’s the experience of Richard Richards in a nutshell. Different stories at different times, the stories do not add up and all of his problems are blamed on somebody else. It is a recurring pattern.
An innocent man
Another part of Richards’ public disinformation campaign is his insistence that he entered an Alford plea in his criminal case, and not a guilty plea.
Frankly, I had never heard of an Alford plea before Richards mentioned it. In other parts of the country, this type of plea is called “nolo contendere” or “no contest.” Common practice in Kentucky is to use the name of the U.S. Supreme Court case, North Carolina v. Alford (1970), which fully legitimized the practice of allowing a criminal defendant to voluntarily accept a conviction without admitting guilt. This is very different from the typical guilty plea where the defendant must admit, usually in open court, that he is guilty of the crime.
If you were to ask Richard Richards today if he admitted to drug trafficking, he would deny it. Thus is the destructive effect of too many pills for too many years, and it explains why Richards is such an effective liar. He believes his own B.S., sincerely.
But, if you trot downtown to the Jefferson Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, the paperwork in Richards’ criminal case file tells a different story.
A tale of two court forms
Kentucky’s Administrative Office of the Courts supplies different forms for Alford Pleas and for Guilty Pleas. Form AOC-491.2 (Alford Plea) provides:
“ 9. Pursuant to North Carolina vs. Alford, 400 U.S. 25 (1970), I wish to plead “GUILTY” in reliance on the attached “Commonwealth’s Offer on a Plea of Guilty.” In so pleading, I do not admit guilt, but I believe the evidence against me strongly indicates guilt and my interests are best served by a guilty plea.”
Form AOC-491 (Guilty Plea) states:
8. Because I am GUILTY, and make no claim of innocence, I wish to plead “GUILTY” in reliance on the attached “Commonwealth’s Offer on a Plea of Guilty.”
If you look in the Circuit Court Clerk’s file, you will find that Richards signed a Form AOC-491 Guilty Plea and not a Form AOC-491.2 Alford Plea.
All of Richards’ story telling to the contrary cannot change the simple fact he admitted in court to be a felony drug trafficker.
Of course, he might have lied about that too. It is still a very active topic of discussion here in the West Buechel neighborhood if Richards is just a problem drug user or if he is also a drug dealer, these days.
Putting felony convictions and drug use aside, the most vexing problem in West Buechel City Hall is that Richard Richards is a rotten Mayor who is stubbornly dishonest, incompetent, corrupt and unresponsive. That is our opinion, which many others share.
The most common nickname I’ve heard around town for Rick Richards is “Slick Rick,” because he’s been getting away with it for so long.