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Covington Commissioner Responds to Attorney General's Review Which is Still Ongoing

The Attorney General of Kentucky is still reviewing whether Covington City Commissioner Michelle Williams is serving legally in her official, elected capacity.

The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky bars anyone convicted of felonies or high misdemeanors from serving in elected offices. Williams has multiple convictions on misdemeanor charges.

Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson opined two weeks ago that Williams's convictions related to theft and what he referred to as fraud amount to high misdemeanors, a term that is almost entirely vague or undefined in state statute.

In a letter dated June 18, Attorney General Jack Conway's office responded to Edmondson. The River City News obtained that letter and publishes it in full here:

Dear Garry, 

This office is in receipt of your fax dated June 17, 2013 in which you conclude that a member of the City Commission has vacated his office "immediately as a matter of law." This office respectfully disagrees. Only the Attorney General or a person who claims the office has authority to initiate an action in the circuit court to oust a usurper from membership on the City Commission. See KRS 415.050, KRS 415.070, Hermann v. Morlidge, et. al., 298 Ky. 632, 183 S.W. 2d 807.809 (1944) and Choate v. Ferguson, 347 S.W.2d 81 (1961). The City Commission, on the other hand, is limited to removing members for "misconduct, incapacity, or willful neglect in the performance of the duties of his office". See KRS 83A.040(9). Where an officer continues to exercise the duties of the office, the acts of the officer are valid until they are deprived of their office by the judgment of a circuit court. See OAG-73-863. Accordingly, it is the position of this office that the City Commission has no power to deprive another Commissioner of their membership and appoint another person in their place. To the extent that your fax represents a request that this office oust a Covington Commissioner, pursuant to its authority under KRS 415.050, it will review such request.

The letter was attributed to Attorney General Jack Conway and signed by Ryan Halloran, assistant director of the Office of Civil and Environmental Law.

Reached Monday afternoon, a spokesperson at the Attorney General's Office withheld comment.

Commissioner Williams responded on Facebook Monday afternoon.

"I was pleased to learn this morning that it is unlikely that Kentucky’s Attorney General will initiate any action to attempt to remove me from my position as Commissioner for the city of Covington to which I was elected last November, 2012," Williams wrote. "This confirms to me that my decision to retain my seat in light of recent revelations concerning my past, misdemeanor convictions is the correct one, and comports fully with the law and fairness. I consider it a privilege to serve the citizens of Covington as one of their Commissioners, and I intend to fulfill all the obligations of my office to the best of my ability. Thanks to all my Supporters!"

As of Monday evening, it was confirmed by The River City News that the Attorney General's Office will continues its review of the Williams case.

Here are some relevant pieces from the Kentucky Revised Statutes as they may relate to this case:

KRS 415.030 Action to prevent usurpation of office or franchise.
If a person usurp an office or franchise, the person entitled thereto, or the Commonwealth, may prevent the usurpation by an ordinary action.

415.050 Duties of the Attorney General.

For usurpation of other than county offices or franchises, the action by the Commonwealth shall be instituted and prosecuted by the Attorney General.
 
415.060 Proceedings for usurpation against person holding office.
 
A person who continues to exercise an office after having committed an act, or omitted to do an act, the commission or omission of which, by law, creates a forfeiture of his office, may be proceeded against for usurpation thereof.
 
415.070 Judgment against usurper -- Enforcement.
 
A person adjudged to have usurped an office or franchise shall be deprived thereof by the judgment of the court, and the person adjudged entitled thereto shall be placed in possession thereof; but no one shall be adjudged entitled thereto, unless the action be instituted by him. And the court shall have power to enforce its judgment by causing the books and papers, and all other things pertaining to the office or franchise, to be surrendered by the usurper; and by preventing him from further exercising or using the same; and may enforce its orders by fine and imprisonment until obeyed.
 
415.080 Recovery of fees and emoluments from usurper.
 
If the usurper has received fees and emoluments arising from the office or franchise, he shall be liable therefor to the person entitled thereto, who may claim the same in the action brought to deprive him of the office or franchise; or in a separate action. If no one is entitled to them, they may be recovered by the Commonwealth, and shall be paid into the public Treasury

 

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Covington City Commission (with Williams at front-row left)