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Covington Calls Special Meeting to Consider Advancing Report Against Carran, Klein

The Covington city commission will convene in special session on Thursday to consider delivering copies of a report against former Mayor Sherry Carran and ex-city manager Larry Klein to Kenton County Attorney Stacy Tapke and Kenton County Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders.

Earlier this month, Lexington-based attorney Scott White, who was contracted by the City of Covington by a vote of the city commission, released the second half of his report that started in June. The first part was heavily critical of the code enforcement department and its management and ultimately led to the resignation of longtime city engineer Mike Yeager.

The second part took aim at former city manager Larry Klein, who resigned under pressure following the election of Joe Meyer as mayor, and former mayor Sherry Carran, who lost to Meyer last year.

Klein was accused of using public resources to aid Carran's campaign, and though a review by the Kentucky Attorney General's Office of emails related to that charge said that there was no wrongdoing, White claimed that Attorney General Andy Beshear had not launched a thorough enough review. White is a former deputy attorney general under Democrat Ben Chandler who served in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Carran is accused of not claiming the alleged contribution from Klein on her election filings.

Both are accused of destroying emails before they left City Hall.

Both deny those charges and each called the White report a witch hunt.

A review by Tapke and/or Sanders could possibly lead to criminal charges if anything illegal is found to have occurred. 

The first investigation or review took place ahead of last year's election and after it, prompted by a complaint filed by the Covington firefighters union which had criticized the city for the way it handled an open records request from its members. When the union received its requested emails, it alleged that they showed improprieties.

The Attorney General's Office and the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance disagreed with the union, which had supported Meyer in his race to unseat Carran.

In an interview with The River City News two weeks ago, Attorney General Andy Beshear noted that White is "a lawyer hired by the city and not a sworn investigator."

"Any allegations of wrongdoing are reviewed first by sworn law enforcement officers," Beshear said of the way his office handles these investigations. "Those don't owe a duty to me, they owe a duty to the people of the Commonwealth and they are not hired to work for anybody. Their job is solely to do what's right under the law."

Beshear noted that his office reached the same conclusion as the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance did, that nothing wrong had happened.

"This situation was then reviewed by a prosecutor with thirty-plus years of experience. They together came to the same conclusion the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance did," Beshear said. "But in the end, we do this solely based on the law through the most experienced folks we have reviewing it, so if there is additional information they can provide it to my office or you can always take the same things to the commonwealth's attorney. 

"We analyze each and every one of these outside of the influence of any politics, with career-dedicated folks making these decisions."

Also at Thursday's special meeting of the Covington city commission, a contract will be considered to hire another lawyer, this one with connections to Beshear.

Amye Bensenhaver may be hired at a cost of $5,000 to assist the city in reviewing open record policies and procedures and to make recommendations on proposed revisions.

She retired from the attorney general's office last year after she was reprimanded for speaking to a reporter without permission. She is considered a leading expert on Kentucky's open records law. She is now the director of the center for open government at the Bluegrass Institute, which describes itself as a free-market think tank.

Bensenhaver is listed as the contact in a press release from the Bluegrass Institute issued Tuesday related to a lawsuit filed against it by the Kentucky House of Representatives, related to a complaint about a violation of the open meetings law. In that case, Attorney General Andy Beshear sided with the Bluegrass Institute.

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher