Lancaster mayor refuses to resign, says council violated Open Meetings Act

gkocher1@herald-leader.comFebruary 13, 2012 

TYLER LANE

Lancaster Mayor Brenda Powers refused to resign Monday and asked for a full public hearing to answer allegations made against her last week by members of the Lancaster City Council.

In addition, Powers accused city council members of violating the state Open Meetings Act and said she would ask the state attorney general's office to investigate.

Last week, members of the city council presented Powers with a memorandum outlining more than 20 allegations of misconduct, willful neglect of duties and incapacity. The memorandum, signed by five of the six council members, sought her resignation by Monday.

In her written response, Powers said she "denies each and every unsubstantiated accusation and allegation" and therefore refuses "to resign the office to which I was elected by the citizens of Lancaster."

"I am still learning about the duties and responsibilities of mayor and I may have made some mistakes along the way, but I have always acted and will continue to act in the best interests of the residents of Lancaster," Powers said in the response released Monday afternoon.

Power's letter concluded: "It is obvious that the allegations contained in the memorandum were discussed among yourselves at closed-door meetings or gatherings other than at a regular or special called meeting of the city council in violation of the Open Meetings Act."

Council members alleged in a memorandum that Powers attempted to circumvent the authority of the council to approve expenditures, failed to discipline in a timely manner employees who violated policies and procedures, and violated state regulations in regard to proper procedures for the hiring of police officers.

The council said Powers has made profane public comments and denigrated the work ethic of city employees. It also alleged that Powers demonstrated "a clear lack of understanding of the role and purpose of the Lancaster Code of Ethics."

The city council had called a Feb. 20 special meeting to discuss the allegations. In her letter, Powers said her attorney cannot be present on that date and asked for a public hearing on Feb. 28 or 29 "in order to afford me and my counsel adequate time in which to prepare a defense to these accusations."

Council member Brandon McGlone, one of the five who signed the city council's memorandum, defended the action.

"What we wrote in the memo was true, and we wanted to give her an opportunity to step down with dignity," McGlone said Monday. If she doesn't want to do that, "we'll just have to go from there."

Mayors and other elected officials in Kentucky may be removed from office for misconduct, incapacity or willful neglect in the performance of duties. The elected official may be removed only by a unanimous vote of all members of the elected body except the one charged.

The law says no elected officer "shall be removed" without a full public hearing. If removed, the mayor has the right to appeal to Garrard Circuit Court.

The city council could appoint an interim mayor who would serve until the general election in November.

Powers also said in her letter that Lancaster needed "more than a part-time mayor to administer the day-to-day functions of the city."

"I strongly recommend that the city council create a full-time position of city administrator with a degree in public administration to help the council and mayor run the city effectively and efficiently."

Powers, 65, was a member of the city council for several years before she ran for mayor and won, defeating incumbent Don Rinthen in the November 2010 general election.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @heraldleader

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