Former Administrator's Appointment to SD1 Board Creates Debate in Campbell Co.
Thu, 06/04/2015 - 09:06 RCN Newsdesk
A group of Campbell County residents raised their concerns at the Campbell County Fiscal Court on Wednesday evening in Alexandria over the appointment of Robert Horine for the County seat to the Sanitation District 1 Board.
Judge/Executive Steve Pendery made the appointment and the motion was passed when County Commissioners Brian Painter and Tom Lampe voted for Horine's appointment. Commissioner Charlie Coleman was the lone no vote.
The point of contention was mainly over the fact that Horine is a Kenton County resident which the crowd on hand felt didn't fairly represent Campbell County's interests. Judge Pendery, however, explained that having 13 years of experience as the county administrator, combined with his proven track record of consistent work ethic, character and knowledge of the system in place, made Horine the best person for the appointment, regardless of which county he currently lives in.
"I have never appointed somebody to a major board whose behavior I am unfamiliar with and who I did not have a very high level of confidence in," Pendery said of Horine's appointment. "Most of the time, I have people on minor boards to see because when a person is under pressure, and these boards do involve pressure, I think you're all aware, you need to know how they're going to react. I've made several hundred appointments to various boards in my 17 years as Judge/Executive and all but a few, have been from Campbell County."
Horine retired in March and was replaced by previous County Finance Director, Matt Elberfeld.
Nearly all of those who spoke against Horine's appointment said that it was not a personal opinion against Horine, but since he did not live in the same county, he should not be the selected board member for SD-1. Wilder resident Kevin Gordon was most outspoken and brought up multiple points against Horine's appointment, SD-1, and the IRS.
Godron expressed frustration over perceived lack of clarity on future sanitation rate increases.
"What we keep hearing is that double-digit increases are necessary on into the future with no end in sight, and the question that has been asked in these chambers is if we are going to spend this money, will it relieve the problem or solve the problem? And the answer is that it isn't an appropriate question and we don't know if it really will or not depending on how the money is spent," Gordon said.
Gordon also felt that not enough pushback was being given by a coalition of river cities throughout the nation against the EPA and their court orders to conform to the 1972 Clean Water Act regulations. Many cities, including those served by SD1, are currently court ordered to pay for structures that will bring them up to federal regulations.
"It appears that the EPA with the pushack they've been given, is starting to relent on some of these rules," he said. "The EPA says that they are starting to understand that this about clean water."
Then Gordon moved on to the Horine appointment.
"With 90,000 citizens in Campbell County, that you can't find one person to represent the interest of Campbell County on the SD1 board, quite honestly, Judge, shocks me. I think it's kind of a slap in the face to all the citizens of Campbell County," he said, referring to the selection of Horine.
He later indicted that because the agenda to the meeting was released the day before--which is standard Fiscal Court protocol--prevented more concerned citizens from rallying at the courthouse in Alexandria.
Once it was Judge Pendery's turn to reply, he centered his points around the prospect of economic and job growth within Campbell County.
He pointed to how Campbell County spent less during the recession on construction projects due to low pricing and all-time low interest rates and how this savings has allowed the County to build infrastructure that has both satisfied the consent decree of the EPA as it relates to SD1, but will also foster growth in Northern Kentucky.
He also said that it wasn't true that the cities have not banded together and said the recent National Mayors Symposium in Cincinnati became a place that allowed the various leaders to prepare for their negotiations with the EPA this fall .
"For this notion that's out there that nobody seems to be doing anything and nobody is working for or against the EPA to try to get a better deal, I want you to know those things.
"I want to suggest that the measure isn't if your rates have gone up, surely they have and they're going to go up more," Pendery said. "The measure that we lay before a board like this is, do it less expensively than everybody else does and give us clean water and keep us in compliance."
Another key aspect to the appointment of Horine in Judge Pendery's opinion is that because of his familiarity to the inner workings of SD1 from his experience as county administrator, the learning curve for a new board member would be less than usual in Horine's case.
"I, having the responsibility to see to it that the best thing is done for Campbell County and the region, have concluded that we've got a guy who has handled all of the complaints that Campbell Countians have about the Sanitation District for the last 13 years and has researched what has to be done about it. We've got a guy, who for the last 13 years, has been the Deputy Judge/Executive which means if I am incapacitated or out of town, he's the boss. He stands in when I'm not there, he's gone to these board meetings and last, we have a guy who shouldered the burden of providing oversight for the Sanitation District. The analysis of SD1 in this county has been done by Robert Horine and he led a team that did it regionally. There isn't anybody in Campbell County that has the background to do the job of the Sanitation District that competes with Robert Horine."
Charlie Coleman sided with those in the crowd that he felt the board member should indeed be from Campbell County and he also favored someone from the business sector over another government employee.
"We need business people more than we need a government person. I have confidence in a Campbell Countian. I'll vote no," he said.
Brian Painter also would prefer the appointee be from Campbell County, but he felt it was important to support the Judge/Executive that the people reelected in November.
"If I were Judge/Executive, I may not make this appointment, but I would expect if I put a qualified candidate up, my commissioners would support me on this, especially if I had spent 18 years growing and nurturing this district to create this prosperity for Campbell County that we're starting to enjoy," Painter said.
Commissioner Coleman felt that stance was undermining the elected commissioners' power in the process and spoke out.
"The people of Campbell County elected us and they did so to represent them, or otherwise we wouldn't be commissioners," he said.
"They also elected the Judge/Executive that has exclusive appointment power for board members," Painter replied.
Lastly, before voting, Tom Lampe also commented about the appointment issue.
"I understand your sensitivity that he is a non-resident. I appreciate all of your input, I always do, but Robert Horine is the most prepared, experienced, dedicated and he is a very conscientious person, and I trust that he will work hard for Campbell County. I'm sure he will. I hope to revisit this issue in a year or two when we see the results of some excellent contribution by Robert Horine," Lampe said.
Horine's term on the SD1 board runs until December of 2018.
Story & photo by Bryan Burke, associate editor