Lexington Vice Mayor Steve Kay has resigned from his position on the board of Commerce Lexington in part because the business chamber does not support an increase in the minimum wage.
"This is not about collaborating or being in partnership with them — they do good work," Kay said. "We fund their work. I think it's inappropriate for the Urban County Government to be part of the policies that they generate."
Kay supports a pending ordinance that would raise the minimum wage to up to $10.10 an hour over the next three years. The chamber has opposed the increase.
"I did not feel comfortable being a part of a board which I feel have taken positions that are antagonistic to the interests of this city, including the one that we have most recently been considering — which is (raising the) minimum wage," Kay said.
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He said during a Tuesday work session that he was not appointed to serve on the board by either the council or Mayor Jim Gray. The ex-officio position was created by Commerce Lexington years ago. Gray is also an ex-officio member.
Kay resigned from Commerce Lexington's board several months ago but made no public announcement then about his decision.
Kay was asked about his resignation Tuesday not long after he made a motion to remove the issue of raising the minimum wage from a council committee so it could be brought to the full council for discussion.
The Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee had previously voted to table the issue until a Louisville lawsuit challenging that city's authority to raise its minimum wage was resolved. A Jefferson Circuit Court judge ruled last week that Louisville had the authority to set the minimum wage.
A panel of the state Court of Appeals also denied a request to issue an injunction while the appeal was pending, which would have stopped a July 1 wage increase in Jefferson County.
Kay cited the recent court decisions as a reason to bring the ordinance to the full council at an Aug. 20 meeting. The motion passed 11-4. Some council members accused Kay of trying to circumvent the process by removing the ordinance from committee. Kay, however, said the council rules allow him to do it.
Kay declined to say Thursday if he thought the issue of his severing ties with the chamber surfaced Tuesday because of his push to move the ordinance to the full council.
But several council members expressed concern that Kay had cut ties with the chamber. Councilman Richard Moloney said he does not always agree with the chamber; nonetheless, the city and the chamber often work in concert on several key initiatives, Moloney said.
"I think the council needs to be on the board," Moloney said. "If you don't want to be on there, then maybe we should put another council member on there."
Councilwoman Shevawn Akers, who was one of the 11 council members who voted to bring the minimum wage ordinance out of committee, said she understands Kay's dilemma but doesn't agree with his decision.
"I don't think he should have resigned," Akers said. "I believe that if you want to make a change or a difference, it's best to work from the inside."
But Councilman Jake Gibbs said he supports Kay's decision. "It's not like the city authorized the vice mayor to be on their board," said Gibbs. "They (the chamber) created the ex-officio position."
Gibbs, who supports raising the minimum wage, said the city is represented on Commerce Lexington's board. Kevin Atkins, the city's chief development officer, is an active member of the board, Gibbs said.
Bob Quick, president and CEO of Commerce Lexington, said the city and the chamber will continue to work together .
"Commerce Lexington and Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government are partners in so many ways to improve our community," Quick said. "We regret his decision to resign but we will continue those partnerships."