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Investigation Continues, Tensions Rise in Bromley

For the most part, at its meeting last week, it was business as usual at Bromley City Council.

There was talk of plans to do better with cleaning up the build-up of leaves in city streets, the possibility of changing Shelby Street - between Steve Tanner and Pleasant - back to two-way traffic, whether the fire department would bring back its once annual festival (it's not sure yet), and other issues typical of a municipal government meeting.

The only indication that the City of Bromley was raided by Kenton County Police last month was when the conversation turned to the forthcoming new city website. Additionally, two proposed ordinances also showed a deep tension between Mayor Donnie Jobe and Councilwoman Gail Smith.

In early February, police seized computers from the Bromley city building on Boone Street, days after a power outage forced the cancelation of the monthly council meeting and also reportedly "fried" those computers. City council is working to create a plan to replace the computers, and its financial reporting software, which was lost in the power outage and was only backed up to September. City attorney Kim Vocke said that he spoke with the police officer who is overseeing the custody of the city's property as well as to the Kenton County Commonwealth's Attorney's office, and was told that there would be questions asked on the city's behalf about getting a copy of the software even as the investigation continues.

The nature of the investigation is unclear. Kenton County Police Chief Spike ones told The River City News late last week that there was nothing new to report. Whether the investigation is criminal in nature and whom it may center around is also unknown publicly. Mayor Donnie Jobe said last month that he has spoken with investigators but said that he could not say whether the investigation was criminal in nature. City council members have not been questioned by investigators.

Gail Smith asked Vocke to draw up a pair of ordinances for council's consideration, arguing that her fellow members of council needed freer access to city documents. One ordinance would have given access to all council members to the city treasurer's office for the purpose of copying documents, and allow them all to contact the city's auditor regarding internal controls and budgeting ad procedural questions.

Mayor Jobe said that the proposed ordinance violated state statute and said that there were privacy concerns related to people's personal information, and Vocke agreed that the language needed to be improved.

State law indicates that the custodians of records at the city are the mayor and the city clerk. Jobe argued that this guarantees accurate, honest, and correct records.

"As long as council has access to the records and access to the auditors since you tend to cut people out of certain things," Smith told the mayor. Jobe said that the city's auditor requested that council members go through the proper channels.

Jobe argued that Smith cut him out of the process in sharing her proposed ordinance with council members but not the mayor. "You want transparency. How is that transparency?," Jobe said. "You want it one way but can't give it the other way."

"You changed the lock on the door without telling me," Smith shot back.

"Why should only one member have a key and no one else?"

"I had it for two years," Smith said.

Vocke intervened in the exchange by saying that the ordinance "needs to be tweaked to some extent".

"If I was to come in the office (and request records), the mayor has to be called," Smith said. "The problem is between you and I, Donnie, and we need to get over it. The animosity between you and I needs to stop."

Asked after the meeting what the source was of the animosity, Smith declined to comment. She also did not say whether her proposed ordinances could in some way be related to the police investigation.

The first proposed ordinance will be amended to specify a protection for personal privacy concerns, but will reinforce that council members can request information.

A second proposed ordinance would bring all expenses in the city before the city council. Again, Jobe said that the proposal violates state law, and Vocke said that this proposed ordinance would need to be tweaked, too.

Jobe also said that state law suggests that as mayor, he is to write the city's budget, but for the past several years, that responsibility has fallen on Smith.

"Day in and day out you handle the budget," Jobe said to Smith. "You sign checks, you sign vouchers - "

"I have not (signed vouchers)," Smith said.

" - you approve bills. So, where's the segregation between point A and point B of what goes on?"

"You delegated it to me," she responded.

Jobe said that he was told that this is the way the process has always been. "I didn't know where I was going with it yet."

In spite of the heated exchange, Jobe asked Smith to write the budget for the next fiscal year because it needed to be finished within the next 30 days. "Gail, will you please write the budget?," Jobe asked.

"Yes, I will," Smith responded.

Following the meeting, some members convened to discuss the city's main street project. An update on that project will be forthcoming.
 
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher