Bluegrass Area Development District exec must resign or be fired, board says

jcheves@herald-leader.comJune 26, 2013 

Leonard P. Stoltz II has until 5 p.m. Thursday to resign or face firing as executive director of the Bluegrass Area Development District.

Following a closed-door meeting, the district's executive board on Wednesday unanimously approved a recommendation by Lexington Mayor Jim Gray that Stoltz be removed "as soon as possible" from the post he's held for eight years. Stoltz. 56, has been on paid leave since June 4.

The board's chairwoman, Lawrenceburg Mayor Edwinna Baker, said she considers Stoltz her friend, but "it is time for a change." If Stoltz refuses to quit, the district's 75-member full board could hold a special meeting next Tuesday to fire him, said Jonathan Gay, an attorney for the board.

Stoltz last week requested a $218,000 settlement in exchange for his departure. That won't be happening, Gay said.

The Lexington-based district handles tens of millions of dollars, helping coordinate regional planning and federal spending among local governments in a 17-county area of Central Kentucky. Its board of directors is made up of mayors and judge-executives.

Stoltz declined to comment on his situation by telephone Wednesday, as did board members, calling it a confidential personnel matter.

However, in a June 21 letter obtained by the Lexington Herald-Leader, Stoltz told board members he's being punished because he "refused to fire an ADD employee based on information allegedly obtained in violation of their civil rights by the law firm of Walther, Roark & Gay." The district paid the law firm $21,471 in attorneys fees for the month of May, budget records show.

Stoltz accused the board's vice chairman, Garrard County Judge-Executive John Wilson, of pressuring him to dismiss the employee despite his concerns about legal liability.

"The response I got was 'I think you would be OK,'" Stoltz wrote. "That was not enough assurance for me to risk a civil rights lawsuit personally or against the Bluegrass ADD. I was then accused of many half-truths by John Wilson and was not allowed to respond before being asked to leave the closed session."

Gay, the board's attorney and a member of the firm, said Wednesday there were no violations of the employee's civil rights.

In her own letter to the board, Baker called Stoltz's allegations "not accurate" and said "this is clearly Lenny's side of the story and not the complete story."

Although the other employee was not publicly named, Baker on Wednesday said the district last week fired Tayna Fogle, 53, an ex-felon who was director of Steppin' to a New Beat, a district program aimed at helping incarcerated criminals re-enter society.

Fogle could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.

Steppin' to a New Beat became embroiled in controversy more than a year ago after the district bought a 6.5 acre tract at 1393 Trent Boulevard that Stoltz proposed using as a residential facility for felons enrolled in the program.

Residents of the surrounding River Park neighborhood were angered when the district refused to explain who would live at the property and what they would do. In two separate opinions, Attorney General Jack Conway said that the district was not authorized to operate a felon re-entry program, and that it must share its records about the program under the state Open Records Act. Previously, Stoltz had refused the neighbors' request for information.

The district now plans to sell the Trent Boulevard property at a loss. The district bought it for $600,000 in January 2012 and spent $500,000 more to begin renovation on some of the eight buildings there, bringing the total cost to at least $1.1 million.

But on Wednesday, the executive board voted to lower the market price from around that much to $995,000, based on the advice of its Realtor.

John Cheves: (859) 231-3266. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com

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