Fox wins Open Records suit against West Buechel

By an order dated August 29, 2016, Jefferson County, Kentucky, Circuit Court Judge Ann Bailey Smith granted the motion of Thomas Fox for Partial Summary Judgment in an Open Records Act lawsuit he had filed in November, 2015 against the City of West Buechel, Kentucky. This Judgment ordered City officials to allow Fox to inspect certain specified banking records and other documents.

Summary Judgment Order – Open Records

West Buechel accountability update

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.

This leaves some $328,000 unaccounted for.

Former West Buechel Treasurer arrested for theft

Marti Sitz was Clerk/Treasurer for the City of West Buechel from 2013 to November, 2014, when she was terminated by former Mayor Sharon Fowler for undisclosed reasons.  When Rick Richards became Mayor in 2015, he re-hired Ms. Sitz as Assistant City Clerk under Clerk/Treasurer Kim Richards.

Marty Sitz was arrested Wednesday, June 29, 2016, at West Buechel City Hall. West Buechel Police officers made the arrest and transported Ms. Sitz to Louisville Metro Corrections where she was booked in with two charges of Theft by Deception for more than $10,000.

The exact nature of the alleged crime is unknown at this time.

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.”

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.

West Buechel: Flimflam part I – Slick Rick

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.

IMG_0034-crop-GS-250px
Richard Richards, Mayor

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.

West Buechel’s Felon for Mayor

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Watchdog Report

 

Timeline

On May 14, 2014, the Narcotics Division of the Louisville Police Department executed a no-knock forced entry search warrant at the West Buechel residence of Richard W. Richards. They kicked in his front door. Inside, the police found Richards flushing pills down the toilet. Still, they also recovered a quantity of prescription oxycodone and hydrocodone tablets, but no prescriptions. Richards was arrested and charged with trafficking in a controlled substance and tampering with physical evidence.

The pills had been delivered to Richards that day by FedEx. Richards refused to tell the police the identity of the person who shipped the prescription pills to him.

Before the August 11, 2014 deadline, Richards filed his nominating petition to place his name to be on November’s general election ballot. Richards was running for the office of Mayor in the City of West Buechel.

On August 26, 2014, Richards entered a guilty plea for two Class D Felony counts, Case No. 14-CR-2251 in the Jefferson Circuit Court, from his May arrest. A plea bargain with the Commonwealth’s Attorney allowed Richards to enter a four-year Pretrial Diversion probation program.

September 22, 2014. Richard’s guilty plea was accepted and the plea agreement was approved by the Jefferson Circuit Court.

In the November, 2014, general election, Richards won the West Buechel Mayor’s race by ten votes. He took the Oath of Office at a ceremony in December and he then undertook the powers and duties of office on January 1, 2015 and he still holds that office.

1. Question: Can Kentucky felony probationers vote or hold public office?

Answer: No.

The regular conditions of probation in Kentucky, known as the Conditions of Supervision, include this statement, “I understand that I have lost the right to vote and hold public office. When I become eligible I may apply for Restoration of Civil Rights.”

2. Question: Does a guilty plea count as a conviction?

Answer: Yes, once it is accepted by the court. :

Commonwealth v. Derringer, 386 SW 3d 123 – (Kentucky Supreme Court, 2012)

“Upon pleading guilty, the defendant’s “status as a ‘convicted felon’ was established” [quoting Thomas v. Commonwealth, 95 S.W.3d 828, 830 (Ky. 2003)] ” . . . a defendant is considered convicted of the offense, for certain purposes, once he enters the guilty plea”

3. Question: Does a guilty plea count as a conviction when there is a pre-trial diversion?

Answer: Yes.

The Kentucky Supreme Court also stated in Thomas, “once the trial court accepted his guilty plea to the underlying felony, the appellant was a convicted felon until such time as he completed the diversion program.,” (quoted in Praither v. Commonwealth, 301 S.W.3d 20 (Kentucky Supreme Court, 2009))

4. Question: Is Richard Richards a convicted felon?

Answer: Yes, until he successfully completes the diversion probation.

If Richards successfully completes his four-year Pretrial Diversion period of supervised probation in 2018, the charges will be listed as `dismissed-diverted’ and it shall not afterwards constitute a criminal conviction. KRS 533.258(1). In the meantime, however, Kentucky law considers Richards to be a convicted felon.

5. Question: Why cannot felons hold public office in Kentucky?

Answer: Kentucky Constitution, Section 150.

“All persons shall be excluded from office who have been, or shall hereafter be, convicted of a felony, or of such high misdemeanor as may be prescribed by law, but such disability may be removed by pardon of the Governor.”

The question remains: How, as a convicted felon and self-confessed drug dealer, can Richard W. Richards legally serve as Mayor of West Buechel?

6. Question: Has Richard Richards’ rights been restored by the Governor?

Answer: No.

Richards is not eligible to have his civil right restored while he is still on probation, and under Kentucky’s diversion statute, his rights will resume automatically if he successfully completes the program.

7. Question: Why is Richard Richards, a convicted felon, Mayor of West Buechel?

Answer: Next time.

There’s more to this story.