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In Ft. Thomas, Disputes Over City Administrator's Residency, Road Kill

Special to The River City News

A lot of discussion took place at this week's Fort Thomas City Council meeting about a residency requirement for the city administrator, fire chief, fire captains and police chief. There was a Fort Thomas residency requirement for those positions that was discovered this summer by a resident. It was then brought up by Martin in a meeting to eliminate that requirement Martin and the fire chief do not live in the city.

At that point it was sent to the Law, Labor and License Committee for discussion. The committee, with a 2-1 vote, recommended that council keep the requirement that allowed for council to wave the requirement for the administrator and for the administrator to wave it for the chiefs and captains.The issue seemed to be dropped as a result of the committee recommendation, but reappeared on the agenda to the surprise of some council members.

It came up previously at the November 18 meeting (read round-up here). Councilman Jay Fossett, chairman of the Law, Labor and License Committee, requested council to hold off on the first reading at the last minute since he knew he couldn't be at last night's meeting where the vote would take place. His request was not granted and the first reading took place. "After I saw that this issue was on the agenda for tonight, I sent an email once again requesting that the vote be delayed until the next meeting, when I would be present," Fossett said Monday afternoon."Ken Bowman and Lisa Kelly both sent emails agreeing with my request. I have not heard from anyone else."

In an email to FTM after the meeting, Martin suggested that Roger Peterman, Eric Haas, and  Tom Lampe did not respond because Fossett's request via email violated Kentucky's Open Meetings Act, which mandates that all council proceedings be held in a public forum. 

"This type of email communication by council members concerning a legislative matter under consideration by the council, likely violates the Kentucky Open Meetings Act," said Martin to FTM.  "All council members have been cautioned by me and by our city attorney to not originate nor engage in emails to a quorum of council such as Jay's email.  If a council member desires to engage a quorum of council members in a conversation regarding a legislative matter it must occur in an open meeting where the public has an opportunity to observe the deliberation."

However, Fossett, an attorney of 27 years and former full-time solicitor for the City of Covington for four years disagrees. "My email did not request council action or discuss public business but simply requested that he/the mayor to change the agenda to delay the vote on the ordinance so I could discuss this publicly discuss this issue at a city council meeting." 

Laura Ross, managing counsel for member legal services with the Kentucky League of Cities, agrees that Fossett's email did not violate any laws including the Kentucky Open Meetings Act. "This is a typical and difficult situation for city legislative bodies who are trying not to risk being considered to  having a public meeting via email so that might be why they didn’t respond," she said."I do think because it’s an administrative question about postponing, as long as there was no discussion, they could respond and just say the very basic yes or no." 
 

When asked about the email and postponing the vote before the meeting, Councilman Roger Peterman said "I have considered it (Fossett's request). We are voting tonight." Councilman and Mayor-Elect Eric Haas said "it's not going to change the outcome of the vote anyway," implying that the vote would be 3 to 3 and the mayor would break the tie in favor of getting rid of the requirement.

Councilmen Lampe, Haas and Peterman voted in favor of eliminating the requirement while Kelly and Bowman voted in favor of keeping it, per the committee's recommendation.

 
"I'm disappointed," said Bowman adding it could be a safety issue. He said the fire chief currently living in Cold Spring isn't an issue but a safety issue could occur if the chief and captains chose to move to Mason or even further away.
 
DEER-RELATED ACCIDENT CREATE COLLATERAL DAMAGE
Fort Thomas resident Mari Beth Sensel addressed council about a deer that was on the side of Memorial Parkway during Thanksgiving weekend. The deer was located 100 yards from the entry of Stardust Point. "This is now my third meeting that I have been here for road kill. Meeting one was a year ago in December."

In previous meetings it was explained to Sensel that Memorial Parkway is a state road and parts of it are in Newport and Bellevue. This sometimes makes things difficult. She argued that the perception is it's Fort Thomas and it looks bad on the city.

Sensel asked why  the smaller animals are usually removed so quickly but the deer tend to stay around for a while. "I would like some answers tonight."

"As far as smaller animals, we can easily dispose of them in a dumpster," said Don Martin, city administrator adding that deer are a little harder to dispose. In an email to Fort Thomas Matters, Martin would later claim that "…the deer carcass in-question along Memorial Parkway was not located in the City of Fort Thomas, but in Newport.  Therefore it was Newport's responsibility to address, not Fort Thomas'."  

However, the City of Newport disagrees.

"We didn't receive any notification that the carcass was in the city of Newport and we typically are called right away if there is roadkill on the small stretch of Newport on Memorial Parkway," said Newport Community Services Director Doug Roell. "If it were in Newport, we would have been notified and would have had it taken care of."

Martin said the police and city employees will report dead deer on state roads to the Kentucky Department of Transportation but it was delayed due to the holiday weekend. It was called Monday morning and the deer was removed.

"I appreciate your concern and we will try to do better," Mayor Mary Brown said to Sensel.

 
The next council meeting is scheduled for December 15 at 7 p.m.
 
Written by Gina Holt for Fort Thomas Matters
 
Photo: Fort Thomas City Council (via FTM)