Politics & Government

Eastern Kentucky utility pays $200,000 to settle suit alleging ‘pattern of corruption’

Prestonsburg’s City Utilities Commission has agreed to pay $200,000 to settle a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by one of its former officials, who last year alleged “discrepancies in financial records and a pattern of corruption” at the public agency in Floyd County.

The plaintiff, Judy Ratliff, was human resources director at the utilities commission from 2009 until she was fired in August 2017.

Ratliff filed a whistle-blower lawsuit three months later alleging that superintendent and chief executive officer Turner “Eddie” Campbell used agency credit cards for personal purchases; that the commission bought computers and cellphones that weren’t maintained as agency property; and that, despite $1 million in revenue every month, vendors regularly called to complain about late payments because of fiscal mismanagement at the agency.

Before audits, Ratliff alleged, Campbell altered public financial records on agency computers to conceal the misspending.

Ratliff said she met with Eddie Clark, one of three appointed commissioners responsible for overseeing the agency, to share her concerns, and he agreed to investigate. Instead, she was called into Campbell’s office and handed a termination letter.

In June, the utilities commission’s insurance company paid $200,000 to Ratliff to settle her suit, the agency told the Herald-Leader this week in response to an Open Records Act request.

Campbell denied Ratliff’s allegations last November when she filed her suit, and he denied them again Thursday. An audit of the utilities commission’s finances after Ratliff publicly aired her claims revealed “no corruption, no misuse of funds,” he said.

“It was a shock to me when this came out,” Campbell said. “I had never had one ill word with this employee. When I laid her off, it was a business decision. I had no idea of these allegations she was making. It was simply an elimination of her position. We have not refilled her position since. We gave her severance and we did not challenge her unemployment.”

Ratliff “looks forward to getting on with her life and putting this behind her,” said her attorney, Shane Sidebottom of Covington.

“Ms. Ratliff is very satisfied to come to an amicable resolution,” Sidebottom said.

The utilities commission serves 9,000 water customers, 4,000 wastewater customers and 1,150 gas customers around Floyd County. As a municipal entity, it is not audited by the Kentucky Public Service Commission.