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More Fighting as Taylor Mill Hires New City Administrator

This article has been updated.

Taylor Mill officially has a new city administrator but the old infighting that has dogged its government for nearly two years continued, with accusations that Mayor Dan Bell attempted to give himself more power, and Bell responding that the charge is "malicious slander".

The city commission unanimously voted to hire Brian Haney for the top post, bringing him from the Kenton County Attorney's office where he had been director of administration for twenty years.

But as the order to hire Haney was read, a disagreement about its language emerged.

City Attorney Frank Wichmann drafted the municipal order that formally names Haney as city administrator. The legislation, as presented, had three sections, and under section two, about duties and responsibilities, there were two parts. The first states, "provided by Taylor Mill ordinance 53, as amended by ordinances 55, 74 (2-8-95), and 110 (05-14-97), and codified at 31.38 (E) of the Taylor Mill Code of Ordinances."   

The second part states in part, "Such other duties and responsibilities assigned to the City Administrative Officer by the Mayor or City Commission of the City."

When the order was set to be read, Wichmann said that he learned that City Commissioner Sarah Frietch objected to the second part, about duties and responsibilities.

Frietch, who is running for mayor against Bell in November, said that the description in ordinance 53 covers that part already and so it was unnecessary and should be deleted.

Bell said that Frietch wanted it deleted solely because it references the mayor independently of the city commission. In the city commission-city manager form of government that cities like Taylor Mill, Covington, and Newport operate under, the mayor holds little executive authority and is generally considered to be part of the 5-member city commission, with the major difference being a head-to-head election, if necessary, and a 4-year term as opposed to a 2-year term for the four city commissioners, who run in a field race where the top four vote-getters are elected.

Frietch made a motion to delete the contested section, and received a second from ally Phil Peace. They were joined in voting to remove the language by Commissioner Dan Murray, often a swing vote in Taylor Mill.

Mayor Bell and Commissioner Mark Kreimborg voted against the suggested change.

Wichmann amended the order and it was unanimously adopted.

The following day, a post on the People of Taylor Mill, KY Facebook page, which is often antagonistic towards Bell and supportive of Frietch and Peace, suggested that Bell was attempting to grant himself more power.

"From what we hear, it appears that Mayor Bell tried to sneak in new language to the way the ordinance reads," the post read. The page's administrator or administrators are not publicly identified. "The new language included allowing the mayor to give the (city administrator) direct orders without the others on the Commission which goes against the current type of government structure the city has.

"With the 3-2 vote the additional power Mayor Bell tried to give himself was removed."

Following the Facebook post, Bell issued a response to Taylor Mill residents on official city letterhead with a headline in all caps, MALICIOUS SLANDER.

"The recent post to the People of Taylor Mill, Ky page-that I tried to sneak new language into the municipal order appointing Brian Haney to the office of City Administrative Officer (CAO) so that I had the additional authority to unilaterally give the CAO direct orders without the approval of the rest of the City Commission is completely  false and slanderous," Bell wrote.

"To the contrary, I had absolutely nothing to do with the preparation of the Municipal Order, or the words in it. That was the responsibility of City Attorney Frank Wichmann; he was the sole author of that Municipal Order, without any contribution or influence from me. Accordingly, the accusation in that post is absolutely false and it should be retracted."

Bell went on to say that the People of Taylor Mill, Ky page is in no way affiliated with the City of Taylor Mill. He said that Wichmann is prepared to back up his claim.

Wichmann said that the municipal order was not out of the ordinary, and he prepared it just like he would for any city. He said the disagreement and resulting argument could have been avoided if Frietch had identified her issue prior to the day of the meeting, so that it could have been amended.  

Frietch later offered more commentary on the issue in a Facebook post on her campaign page and also in comments left at the The River City News Facebook page and on this article. It can be seen here:

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story attributed a statement to Frank Wichmann that should not have been. Wichmann did not say that the city commission received the municipal order in advance. Instead, it should have said that the order was sent to the City of Taylor Mill. RCN regrets the error.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor