Official says she was asked to resign post

environmental quality commissioner: husband's work for city was at Issue

kward1@herald-leader.comNovember 13, 2011 

Cheryl Taylor

Lexington's former commissioner of environmental quality and public works said in a letter to employees last week that she was asked to resign after the city began investigating whether she "inappropriately" tried to direct city funds to her husband.

Taylor, one of Mayor Jim Gray's first appointees to city government, resigned last week.

In the letter, dated Thursday, Cheryl Taylor denied wrongdoing and said she wanted to give her employees the facts about the events that led to her resignation.

"I am angry, embarrassed, and really stunned at this turn of events, but it is important to me that you know the truth," Taylor wrote.

In a brief telephone interview Saturday night, Taylor said the investigation and the situation that precipitated it marked the culmination of an ongoing disconnect between her and the administration.

"We just had a different approach, and sometimes the policies change with different administrations," she said. "I don't think that I was ever actually trusted."

On Saturday, Susan Straub, spokeswoman for city government, declined to discuss Taylor's version of events.

Straub released a statement Thursday that said, "We wish the situation were different. We wish her well."

Susan Bush, director of the city's Division of Environmental Policy, is serving as interim commissioner of environmental quality and public works until a permanent replacement is named.

Taylor, 54, became the city's first environmental quality commissioner in November 2007 under then-Mayor Jim Newberry but left to work for Kentucky American Water in 2010.

When she returned to the city post under Gray in January, Taylor said in the letter, her husband, Bobby Taylor, a master electrician and contractor, already was working part-time doing electrical work and project management under a contract in the city's Division of Waste Management.

Taylor said she told the Urban County Council in writing about his employment with the city during her appointment process and "was assured by several officials that this was not a problem and there was no conflict."

However, Taylor said that once she began working for the city, she was told that after her husband's contract ran out, he would not be permitted to work in that position any more.

When the contract ended in May, Taylor said, her husband stopped working for the city. She said he was contacted several times by the Division of Waste Management afterward and that he answered their electrical and controls questions at no charge.

Then, in early October, Taylor said the division called her husband "with an urgent request to unhook the temporary building that had been rented at the Electronics Recycling Facility." The division also wanted him "to do some other electrical tasks" at the site.

Taylor said the Division of Waste Management put in a purchase order regarding her husband's work that listed a maximum payment to him of $999.

Although her husband initially had reservations, Taylor said he decided to unhook the building, but he told the city employees he would not do the other work they wanted done.

She said he did not charge the city for unhooking the building. The purchase order was denied, and the additional work was contracted to another company, Taylor's letter states.

In an attempt to "clarify the question once and for all," Taylor said she explained what had occurred in an Oct. 11 email to chief administration officer Richard Moloney and law department commissioner Janet Graham. She said Graham responded that Taylor's husband "could not work for the city."

This month, Taylor said in the letter, Graham and others "launched an investigation of this 'process' to determine if I was guilty of inappropriate conduct."

She said that on Wednesday evening, she was asked to resign. She said no reason was given.

Taylor said in the telephone interview that she wrote the letter to employees because she wanted to clear up rumors that undoubtedly were swirling about her departure.

"It's a pretty close-knit group of people down there, and gossip moves quickly," she said. "I didn't do anything and I wanted them to know that."

Reach Karla Ward at (859) 231-3314 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3314.

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