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Covington Code Enforcement Target of Scathing Report After Investigation

There was no criminal wrongdoing, but there were managerial and operational problems in the City of Covington's code enforcement department.

That's the conclusion of a months-long investigation by an independent attorney in a report released Wednesday.

“While the investigation found that no crimes were committed, the report made it clear that we need to make a number of improvements in the management and operation of the Code Enforcement Department, and we are in the process of taking immediate steps to make those improvements,” said Covington City Manager David Johnston.

Attorney Scott White, a former Kentucky Deputy Attorney General, conducted the independent investigation. He is a partner in the Lexington law firm of Miller Edwards Rambicure PLLC and his practice includes administrative and criminal investigations of public employees and government agencies.

White was hired in June, but at the time, the scope and nature of the investigation was unclear. A month prior, three code enforcement officers resigned and the City of Covington pursued a staffing analysis. Emails obtained by The River City News through an open records request revealed that two resigned officers cited a hostile working environment.

White interviewed sixteen current and past city employees and individuals who had dealings with the city and reviewed numerous emails, ordinances, policies, and documents during his investigation, according to a news release.

“There was no criminal activity or illegal conduct in the code enforcement department,” White wrote in his report, which was delivered to the city Wednesday. “The Code Enforcement Department was (and likely remains) abysmally managed. The serious failure to properly manage the department creates an unacceptable risk to the health and safety of the citizens, visitors, and taxpayers of Covington.

“The mismanagement generates consequences that significantly hamper the ability of the department to do its job,” White wrote. “The consequences include several of those described in the materials provided to the City by the three resigning code enforcement officers as well ones discovered by the investigation.”

In his report, White found “significant management problems” and operational issues in the code enforcement department, including:

  • The lack of a single document, manual, or chart laying out the operation, policies, job descriptions, protocols, and chain of command in the department
  • Poor management skills and a failure to work through the chain of command
  • The lack of formalized or standard job training of code enforcement officers
  • A work environment in which employees did not work collegially with each other

Johnston said the City will immediately begin implementing changes within the department, including:

  • Transitioning to full-time code enforcement officers
  • A complete reorganization of the code enforcement department
  • Engaging the Kentucky League of Cities (KLC) to provide training to code enforcement officers
  • Developing a process to review and establish policies, procedures, and protocols.

“Effective code enforcement is an incredibly important responsibility for the city and impacts everyone who lives, works in, and visits our city,” Johnston said in a statement. “The current mayor and city commissioners inherited a problem and they brought in (an) outside investigator to get to the root of that problem. This investigation and report clearly identifies a number of problems within this department and also helps to create a road map for us to fix those problems.”

Read the full report:

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher