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Exclusive Preview: Emails Reveal Distrust, Factions in Covington City Hall


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Trust and respect appear to be lacking between some members of the Covington City Commission and administrators at City Hall. 

The often contentious displays of disagreement during public meetings is only a glimpse of the true divide.

Hundreds of emails obtained by The River City News through the Kentucky Open Records Act shine a light on just how deep the rift runs through Covington's hopes for a functional, professional government.

After last year's heralded "unified commission" led by former Mayor Chuck Scheper, the City has since returned to the days where commission meetings devolve into personal attacks and frequently divided votes.

The River City News examined many internal communications between city commissioners and city administrators throughout the month of May, a month that saw a verbal brawl erupt when one commissioner was barred from attending staff meetings and an attempt to bring in an outside agency to mitigate the breakdown of the relationships inside City Hall.

The emails reveal what appear to be alliances between Commissioners Mildred Rains and Michelle Williams on one side and Mayor Sherry Carran and Commissioner Chuck Eilerman on the other. The fifth member of the city commission, Commissioner Steve Frank, is back and forth between the dueling parties.

On the administrative side, City Manager Larry Klein's relationship with Rains and Williams has deteriorated so much that he at one point refused to meet with them without a witness present and also asked that the meetings be recorded. 

Carran and Eilerman often express their support of Klein and come to his defense while Williams and Rains believe information is being withheld from them.

"Larry, this is Commissioner Rains and my meeting is with you only," wrote Rains in one email to the city manager. "If anyone else is in the meeting I will take this as insubordination."

"Don't be late for this meeting today," Klein wrote to City Solicitor and Assistant City Manager Frank Warnock. 

Interestingly, the email from Rains was sent at 6:57 a.m. from the email account of Commissioner Williams. No explanation was given as to why.

Williams maintains that Klein is not as forthcoming with her as he is with Carran, Eilerman, and Frank. "It seems like once again that my issues have no priority with this staff," Williams writes in one email. "It would be nice to know what issues the other commissioners have that take priority over any of my issues. You have more than enough staff to assist in these residential issues."

"She has screamed and yelled and cussed at me, calling me “liar” several times, in the presence of other employees, and from behind closed doors where other employees down and around the hall can hear her," Klein wrote to the Kentucky League of Cities.

Hundreds of emails read like heated arguments or calls for help to restore order at a City Hall shaken by the abrupt decline in civility from the previous administration to this one.

And you will read all about it right here at The River City News starting with part one on Wednesday morning.

What were the circumstances that led up to the verbal brawl between Williams and the mayor and city manager?

At what point did the city manager begin to ask for help in dealing with what he sees as aggressive commissioners? 

Is there hope to restore a higher expectation of civility among Covington's elected officials and administrators, as the city stands poised for the most rapid and high-profile economic developments in its history?
The River City News presents its exclusive reports, "The City Hall Emails", starting Wednesday morning, only at
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News
Photo: Covington City Hall/RCN file