Fayette County

E-mails: Public works commissioner was warned not to hire husband

Cheryl Taylor
Cheryl Taylor

City officials cautioned Lexington's former Commissioner of Environmental Quality and Public Works Cheryl Taylor at least three times not to direct city work to her husband, according to emails obtained Wednesday by the Herald-Leader.

Taylor abruptly resigned last week, saying she was asked to step down after the city began investigating whether she inappropriately tried to direct city funds to her husband.

Some of the requests to hire her husband, Robert Taylor, an electrician, were from officials in the Division of Waste Management, under Cheryl Taylor's supervision. At least two requests were by Taylor herself, according to the transcripts released by the city in response to an open-records request from the Herald-Leader.

On at least three occasions in 2011, Law Commissioner Janet Graham emailed Taylor that her husband could not be hired as a city employee or do contract work for the city because it would violate the city's nepotism ordinance.

The law department conducted ethics training in April for commissioners and the mayor's staff covering nepotism and conflicts of interest. One of the examples dealt specifically with not hiring relatives.

In a letter dated Nov. 10 to employees of her department, Taylor denied any wrongdoing and said she wanted to give her staff the facts about 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," she wrote.

Taylor could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Mayor Jim Gray's administration has made no comment about Taylor's resignation or her letter. Graham said she advised Gray not to comment publicly on Taylor's resignation.

Taylor, one of Gray's first appointees to city government, was a veteran government employee, having previously worked for the state and city. Both have ethics policies that address nepotism.

Then-Mayor Jim Newberry hired Taylor in 2007 to be the city's first environmental quality commissioner. Part of Taylor's job was to oversee city efforts to comply with a February 2008 settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that requires Lexington to pay up to $300 million during the next decade to repair sanitary and storm sewer systems that have polluted local creeks.

In 2010, Taylor left that post to take a job with Kentucky American Water as manager of production.

In 2010, before Taylor returned to city government, her husband received two city contracts to do work for the city at an amount totaling almost $25,000.

That work continued in 2011, when Cheryl Taylor returned to city government under Gray.

Robert Taylor also was considered for additional city work.

The first instance came after Steve Feese, director of waste management, sent a memo to human resources — and signed by Cheryl Taylor — to create two temporary part-time positions. The Urban County Council approved the request March 17.

Robert Taylor applied for employment with the city on April 11.

Three days later, Cheryl Taylor emailed Richard Moloney, the city's chief administrative officer; Glenda George, in the law department; and Leslie Jarvis, acting director of human resources, saying concerns had been raised about whether her husband could work for the city.

Taylor said she would welcome advice "on how I should proceed."

Graham, the law commissioner, told Taylor that her husband could complete his existing contracts with the city because he was hired before Cheryl Taylor was appointed commissioner.

But once the contracts expired, Robert Taylor could not be hired as a part-time employee because it would violate the city's ethics ordinance, Graham said.

On April 27, Cheryl Taylor emailed Moloney and Graham again, this time to ask if her husband's contracts could be extended.

In early May, Cheryl Taylor again renewed her request of a contract extension for her husband.

Almost instantly, Graham emailed back that the answer was "no."

By this time, Graham had emailed human resources saying: "Please do not process any paperwork that would place Cheryl's husband in a part-time position."

But on Sept. 16, Gary Gardner, construction supervisor in waste management, emailed Feese and Cheryl Taylor about a $999 purchase order to hire Robert Taylor to do electrical work for the city.

Brad Stone, Cheryl Taylor's budget person in environmental quality, gave his approval Sept. 28. "I just approved it for the commissioner," Stone emailed. He copied Cheryl Taylor on the email.

On Oct. 10, Cheryl Taylor emailed Graham, saying waste management had called her husband a week earlier to unhook a building. The work had to be done "quickly," Taylor wrote, adding, that the Division of Waste Management "was desperate, so my husband went out and unhooked the building at no charge."

Waste management "continues to ask if they can call him for limited scope controls projects, etc., but I am not sure what is OK," Taylor wrote. "Can you please advise me?"

Graham emailed back: "Your husband cannot work for the government while you are commissioner."

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