West Buechel – Majority of Council asks for Mayor’s removal

West Buechel, Ky. –  October 10, 2016

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.

 

 

Kim Richards – Grounds for removal from office

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KRS 62.010(2) requires every individual who is elected to public office to take the necessary oath of office before undertaking the duties of that office. Those who are appointed to public office must take the oath within 30 days after receiving notice of appointment, as required in  KRS 62.010(3)

Mayor Rick Richards appointed Kimberly Richards to the office of City Clerk-Treasurer for West Buechel in January, 2015, and she began to perform the duties of that office immediately. However, Kim Richards did not take her oath of office until June 9, 2015, more than 30 days later. (See City Council meeting minutes for June 9, 2015 Council meeting below)

By waiting until June to take her oath of office, Ms. Richards violated the time requirements of KRS 62.01(3)

KRS 62.990(2)(b) provides that when the oath of office provisions of KRS 62.01(3) are violated, “his office shall be considered vacant, and he shall not be eligible for the same office for two (2) years.”

All that is now required to get Kim Richards out of West Buechel City Hall is the say-so of a Jefferson Circuit Court Judge.



2015-06-09-Minutes (Text)

West Buechel – Unauthorized Pay

Kentucky law requires the compensation of City employees and non-elected officials to be set by Ordinance.

“The legislative body of each city shall fix the compensation of city employees and nonelected city officers in accordance with a personnel and pay classification plan which shall be adopted by ordinance.”

KRS 83A.070(2)

West Buechel’s Code of Ordinances § 31.36(D) specifically addresses the compensation and conditions of employment for the City Clerk-Treasurer:

Compensation authorized to be paid the City Clerk-Treasurer for conditions of employment and services shall be fixed by the City Council by ordinance.”

The “personnel and pay classification plan” required by KRS 83A.070(2), in general, including the compensation for the City Clerk-Treasurer, is contained in the City’s Personnel Policy and Procedures Handbook which has been adopted by Ordinance, by reference.

West Buechel Code § 37.01 ADOPTION BY REFERENCE.
(A) The policies and procedures, compensation plan and classification plan of the city is hereby adopted by reference as if fully set out herein.
(B) All employees now employed, and those employed in the future, shall be furnished a copy of the policies and shall attest in writing to the Mayor and Council that they have received the policies examined it and understand the contents herein. Employees shall also certify that they have had an opportunity to ask questions concerning same.
(C) A full and complete copy of the policies is on file in the Office of City Clerk-Treasurer.

West Buechel’s Personnel Policy and Procedures Handbook, as it existed and was readily available in print on January 1, 2015, when Rick Richards took office as Mayor, set the maximum hourly pay for City Clerk-Treasurer at $24.34.

kim-3-350pxIn January, 2015, Kim Richards undertook the duties of City Clerk-Treasurer at $26.00 per hour.  For calendar year 2015, Kim Richards was paid in excess of $60,000.

In 2016, Mayor Rick Richards unilaterally increased Kim Richards’ hourly pay to $28.00. Through July 9, 2016, Kim Richards had already received pay from the City in excess of $55,000.

The amount of pay received by Kim Richards in excess of $24.34 per hour has never been authorized by West Buechel’s City Council.

West Buechel: Dark Money – Part II

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.”

 



2015-2016-BBT-Accounts (Text)

West Buechel: Dark Money – Part I

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.

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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.

The public has a right to know.

West Buechel: The Cop Who Wasn’t There

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.

So, Mayor Richards settled her claim. See: Can a mayor compromise a lawsuit? 

This is how the settlement was structured.

(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.

West Buechel Mayor skirts bid laws

Kentucky law requires municipalities to follow certain procedures for purchases of goods or services over $20,000. They may:

  1. Piggy back on state purchase contracts;
  2. Adopt the Local Model Procurement Code (KRS 45A.343), or;
  3. 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.

 



2015-11-11-Dodge-Purchase-Or (Text)

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.

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.”