Politics & Government

Versailles council reaches stalemate in appointing new mayor

VERSAILLES — After two nominations and two votes Tuesday, the city of Versailles is without a mayor to succeed Fred Siegelman.

The stalemated city council might not be able to reach consensus over the next 29 days, and if that is the case, Gov. Steve Beshear will appoint a new mayor.

In the meantime, City Clerk/Treasurer Allison White is in charge of day-to-day operations of the city, and council member Brian Traugott will preside over council meetings, including the next regular meeting July 16, said City Attorney Bill Moore. Traugott also presided over Tuesday's meeting.

Siegelman, mayor since 1999, resigned Monday to take a position with the state Department of Corrections.

During Tuesday's meeting, council member Mary Ellen Bradley nominated Traugott to succeed Siegelman. That nomination lost on a 3-2 vote, with Bradley and council member Owen Roberts voting yes and council members Ann Miller, Carl Ellis and Ken Kerkhoff voting no. (Traugott was prohibited from voting for himself.)

Kerkhoff then nominated Versailles resident Anthony Wilhoit, who is executive director of the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission and a retired chief judge of the Kentucky Court of Appeals. Wilhoit is the father of Versailles Police Chief John Wilhoit.

That nomination died on a tie vote, with Kerkhoff, Ellis and Miller voting yes and Traugott, Roberts and Bradley voting no.

After the meeting, Traugott said he anticipates "that we'll turn it over to the governor."

"I don't know why you would revisit a vote here," Traugott said. "Nobody's going to change their mind."

Before the votes, Siegelman choked up as he thanked city employees and the public for their support.

Jon Gay, a friend who encouraged Siegelman to run for public office, spoke about accomplishments during Siegelman's years as mayor. Gay credited the Siegelman administrations with bringing the Kentucky Community and Technical College System to the Texas Instruments plant, keeping the local hospital in place when it could have easily closed, and bringing the filming of the Orlando Bloom/Kirsten Dunst movie Elizabethown to Versailles.

Don C. Lewis III then spoke up and read remarks opposing Traugott as a possible successor. Lewis suggested that Traugott, who is a senior policy adviser to Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, wants to use Versailles as a stairstep to higher political office.

"Do we as Versailles residents want the future of our town to be in the hands of people who are beholden to the influences of Frankfort?" Lewis asked. "Do any of us truly believe that anyone with aspirations in Frankfort and unpaid debts to political cronies will put the needs of Versailles and the wishes of its citizens first and foremost?"

Traugott said later that he went to high school with Lewis, but otherwise had no comment on the remarks.

Traugott said there was "no deal" between him and Siegelman to be Siegelman's successor. Traugott said he didn't know for certain that Siegelman was resigning until the city attorney sent an email to council members Monday morning informing them that Siegelman had resigned.

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