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Covington City Manager's Fate Uncertain as Possible Replacement Emerges

The fate of Covington City Manager Larry Klein and his job status at City Hall appears to be uncertain Thursday.

Meanwhile, former State Senator, Kentucky Secretary of Education, and longtime Covington resident Joe Meyer has met with Mayor Sherry Carran and at least two city commissioners to discuss the possibility of serving as interim city manager should Klein be fired or asked to resign, The River City News confirmed. Sources have indicated that Meyer was originally approached by City Commissioner Steve Frank to consider the possibility.

Klein could be reached for immediate comment on Thursday. Meyer, reached by phone, declined to comment.

What is known: Commissioner Frank, long considered the swing vote on the 5-member board of commissioners that would tilt the scale for or against Klein, met with the embattled city manager at length at City Hall on Thursday.

Klein was still at work Thursday afternoon.

Klein's job security began to wane when it was revealed last August that former finance director Bob Due had allegedly stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city coffers. Klein and Due worked very closely on annual budget preparations and last year developed ambitious community investment and reinvestment plans that call for new and repaired sidewalks and roads, among many other things like a new community center in town, as well as a mechanism that would fund new and repaired sidewalks and roads over the next five years.

While Mayor Carran and Commissioner Chuck Eilerman have voiced their support for retaining Klein as city manager, a position he has held since 2009 after serving previously as assistant city manager, Commissioners Frank, Mildred Rains, and Michelle Williams have yet to say one way or the other whether they would vote for Klein's removal.

However, Rains and Williams have had a troubled professional relationship with the city manager since early 2013 when they took office. Frank has said that he would spend a great deal of time thinking about the situation before making a final decision.

Frank could not be reached for immediate comment, either, but said on February 13 that basic procedures were not in place to prevent theft from the city and that, "Larry is on a slippery slope". He applauded Klein's reaction to the alleged theft but said, "That may not be enough for me to retain faith in our city manager".

Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen's office released its findings of a special examination into the city's finances earlier this month and placed the amount of Due's alleged theft at $793,000, taken over the course of twelve years. Edelen's office also blasted lax oversight of the finance department by the city administration.

While the examination did not implicate anyone else in Due's alleged criminal activity and both Edelen and Kenton County Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders said that they don't expect anyone else to be charged, Klein has been a target of questioning since the auditor's report.

Days later, during a meeting of the Task Force to Restore Public Confidence in the city's finances, a group led by former Judge Douglas Stephens and put together after a recommendation by Klein, Eilerman pressured Frank to say one way or the other whether he supports keeping the city manager.

"I think the response has been very effective," Frank said to Eilerman. "But no, I think there is a certain amount of hubris, guilt, I don't know the right word to use, to duck the responsibility that we didn't have basic things, things you didn't even need basic software for. It disturbs me."

The exchange devolved from there with Frank shouting at Eilerman, "Watch what I'm going to do! I'm not here to satisfy your sense of curiosity of what I'm going to do."

Carran and Eilerman have both praised Klein's response to the revelations of Due's alleged theft. Klein said last week, while presenting the city's "corrective action plan" which is required after a state audit, that he loves his job.

"I take this very personally. There is probably nothing more personal that could happen to a person in this position," Klein said at the time. "If I could turn back the clock, I would. I have had a lot of sleepless nights over this event."

"I love this city. I love working here."

Carran and Eilerman both want to see Klein remain the city manager. Eilerman confirmed Thursday that he had a conversation with Joe Meyer on Wednesday about the former state senator stepping into Klein's role.

"I expressed my belief that he would be a credible interim manager but Larry is continuing to be a fine manager and we do not need an interim manager," Eilerman said.

When asked about Klein's current status, Eilerman said he was not sure but hoped to find out "shortly". 

This story will be updated when more information is gathered.

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Klein presents the city's Corrective Action Plan/RCN file