The Bardstown City Council will meet Tuesday afternoon to appoint a new mayor, and it will probably be one of its own members.
In a letter to Nelson County Clerk Elaine Filiatreau, Councilman Dick Heaton, who presided over the special council meeting last week that removed Mayor John Royalty for misconduct, said the April 18 meeting would be “to temporarily appoint one of its own members to the position” of mayor.
Councilman John Kelley, a former county attorney, said that has been discussed.
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On Thursday, after two days of testimony before an administrative hearing officer, retired Judge Doughlas George, the council voted to remove Royalty for multiple inappropriate actions, including improperly using city personnel and equipment to receive Councilwoman Kecia Copeland’s private emails; disseminating those emails to others, including reporters; and ordering a city employee to lie to the council members to get their city-owned iPads to read the emails on the pretext that it was for installing software updates.
The decision to remove the mayor was unanimous. Under Kentucky state law, it had to be. According to the statute, City Attorney Tim Butler said the next day, the decision has to be a unanimous vote of all elected members, not only those present.
That means Copeland, who was considered the victim of Royalty’s actions, could not have abstained, nor could the vote have occurred if any one of the members had not been there at the time of the vote. The only way there could have been fewer than six, he said, would have been if there was a vacancy on the council.
Royalty’s removal from office was immediate. He can appeal to Nelson Circuit Court and has said publicly that he will, but the removal cannot be put on hold pending the appeal. Royalty’s attorney, Jason Floyd, said he hasn’t discussed the matter with his client, and he doesn’t know whether his law partner, Doug Hubbard, has.
The special meeting to temporarily fill the position is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday in the council meeting room adjoining the parks and recreation building across from City Hall.
According to the state’s constitution and statutes, the appointee must be someone of voting age and a resident of the city for at least a year.
Butler said the council doesn’t have to appoint one of its own members, but if it does, that would create a vacancy that would have to filled within 30 days, and the same criteria would apply.
Heaton said the appointment of a mayor and a council member would not occur simultaneously. The other position would be filled at a later date.
Butler said that ordinarily, the temporary appointment would be until the November election, but there won’t be an election this year, and the current term doesn’t expire until the end of 2018.
The city attorney said the city can’t require the county clerk to “go to that expense” of having a special election unless there is already something else on the ballot for which an election would have to be held. In Kentucky, there is no election in the year after a presidential election.
“There is no election in Kentucky in this fourth year for anything,” Filiatreau confirmed Friday.
The law requires the City Council to notify the county clerk and secretary of state of the vacancy “immediately.” That was done Friday morning, when Heaton sent two letters, one to Filiatreau and the other to Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.