Newberry tells council members he'll offer more information about city employee controversy

Council urgedto keep minds open

lblackford@herald-leader.comJune 1, 2010 

Mayor Jim Newberry contacted several city council members during Memorial Day weekend over what quickly is becoming a contentious issue concerning a city employee and his department's reorganization.

"Basically he said it was important to keep an open mind and more information will be presented at the meeting" on Tuesday at 10 a.m., said Second District council member Tom Blues, who said Newberry contacted him over the weekend.

The employee, Patrick Johnston, is director of the Division of Risk Management. His position is due to be terminated under a reorganization of that department. Johnson made fraud allegations in 2008 and 2009 that city council members would like to know more about.

On Thursday, a council committee declined to accept the proposed reorganization because of several issues raised, among them whether Johnston was being punished for his allegations. Also at issue is whether the city has saved money by using the Kentucky League of Cities as an insurance agent. The city says it has; Johnston disputes those numbers.

Seventh District council member KC Crosbie has asked repeatedly to see the fraud allegations to determine whether the two issues are related, but the administration has denied her requests.

The city also denied an open records request by the Herald-Leader, which is challenging the denial.

"I think the two issues may be tied together, but I can't get any answers," Crosbie said Monday.

Crosbie said Newberry had not contacted her.

Fourth District council member Julian Beard, who was also contacted by Newberry over the weekend, said he, too, would like more information before he makes a decision.

"I can't make a judgment about the severity of the situation because the law department and the administration have not seen fit to include us in the discussion," he said. "It's gone too far, and it's not healthy."

Eleventh District council member Peggy Henson said Newberry also contacted her to tell her the administration would be submitting "an explanation of what's going on.

"I want to hear all the facts," she said. "I'm concerned."

Newberry was not immediately available for comment Monday night.

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