The City Commission approved Edward Adams to fill one of the two vacancies on the city’s Board of Ethics by a 3-0 vote.
Mayor Gippy Graham, “with a great deal of reluctance,” withdrew his other nominee, Carlos Pugh, from consideration based on Sunday’s State Journal article naming Pugh as a contributor to the re-election campaign of Commissioner Kathy Carter, who faces ethics complaints.
Graham and Commissioners Bill May Jr. and Rodney Williams voted “yes” on Adams, while Carter and Commissioner Sellus Wilder passed on voting after a 35-minute discussion on the conflict of interest matter.
Carter and City Manager Tony Massey are named in ethics complaints that will be heard by the ethics board.
Williams, speaking emotionally at times, said putting the nominations to a commission vote should eliminate any notion of a conflict of interest.
Williams also said Graham and Carter’s political relationship was “not new information” during the 2008 election.
“Who’s going to make the claim as a voter that they didn’t ... that they weren’t aware of any support that Mayor Graham and Commissioner Carter have amongst themselves, financially or otherwise?
“They (the voters) chose those two people to be on this board with full knowledge of this so-called perception of a conflict of interest.”
Graham defended his appointments as being part of his responsibility as mayor.
City Solicitor Robert Moore said the mayor has no conflict of interest. Moore, in response to an earlier question from the audience, said the county’s Ethics Commission doesn’t have jurisdiction to hear the complaints.
Wilder said a conflict of interest, either real or perceived, could hurt the city’s ethics system.
“There’s no denying there is a perceived conflict of interest here,” Wilder said before the commission voted on Adams’ nomination. “My problem is that it would’ve been a lot easier for me to vote for these appointments if they hadn’t ... I know it’s a small town, but I’m sure we could’ve found two people who had not worked or served with Commissioner Carter in some capacity or had not donated to her campaign.
“I realize that’s just a perception, but it does erode faith in this system.”
Carter and May sat silently during the 35-minute exchange.
Graham, in an impassioned speech, withdrew Pugh, a former state commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and longtime commander of VFW Post 4075, from consideration.
“What I want to say to you now, I say with great reluctance because I appreciate so much a citizen who is willing to come forth and serve,” Graham said Monday.
“But because of newspaper articles and because of perceived things, I am going to have to withdraw Mr. Pugh’s nomination this evening.”
Pugh told the newspaper Saturday his $100 contribution to Carter’s campaign wouldn’t affect his ability to judge her if he was appointed to the Board of Ethics.
Adams, a 2000 retiree from the state’s Department of Highways and a contributor to Graham’s secretary of state and mayoral campaigns, joins Dawn Hale on the city’s Board of Ethics. His term will end Dec. 31, 2011.
Adams, who had been in Somerset visiting family, told The State Journal today he agreed to serve after Graham said he couldn’t think of anyone better to sit on the board.
“That was quite a compliment,” Adams said.
Adams says he knows “very, very little” about Carter. Both are members of Kentucky Public Retirees and he’s seen her at “one or two meetings.”
With two members, the city’s ethics board can take action on Carter and Massey’s case, Frankfort’s ordinances say, and Moore confirmed.
Graham said he isn’t sure if he’ll appoint another to the board.
“I will seek ... someone who I feel, not who someone else feels, but who I feel has the qualities, the character, that Mr. Pugh has,” Graham said during his speech.
“But I hope they won’t get shot down, he or she won’t get shot down, by innuendos.”
Graham called any conflict of interest based on his political relationship with Carter, his campaign manager during his 2003 run for secretary of state, “laughable” and he holds her “in high regard.”
“I didn’t really know Commissioner Carter until 2002,” Graham said before withdrawing Pugh’s nomination. “However, that does not preclude me from making an impartial judgment.”
The complaints against Carter and Massey – filed by city electrical inspector Angie Willoughby and Code Enforcement Supervisor Robert Engle earlier this month – allege Massey overstepped his authority by asking that Carter’s properties – 708 and 710 Hoge Ave. – be inspected under an older electrical code by the county and by issuing a temporary certificate of occupancy.
Carter allegedly used her position as commissioner to receive special treatment in the process.
Willoughby inspected Carter’s property Jan. 14 and failed it under 2008 electric codes, citing nine total violations at the property, records show.
County electrical inspector Mel Trivette cited 23 total violations and failed it using 2005 electric codes Jan. 26 after the county took jurisdiction over the duplex’s final electrical inspection, records indicate.
The duplex is getting electricity from the Frankfort Plant Board via a temporary service order issued Dec. 11, and the utility sent a letter to the city’s planning and zoning office March 3 requesting an update on the property’s status.
County Planning and Zoning Director Robert Hewitt replied March 8 and said the electrical contractor, Donald Jones, had been notified of the violations and might request a follow-up inspection soon.
No follow-up final electrical inspection has been scheduled as of Monday, officials at the county Planning and Zoning office say.
Two seats on the city’s ethics board opened up after former members Michael Turner and Kevin Mason resigned March 9.
Turner is running for City Commission – and thus is a challenger to Carter and the incumbents seeking re-election, and Mason is a member of the Civil Service Board and cannot have dual service.
Also Monday, the City Commission:
>Unanimously voted to buy the Frankfort Police Department nine safety vests and other related items for its Tactical Response Unit.
The total cost is more than $12,000, and more than $6,000 will be paid through grant funds from the state’s Office of Homeland Security’s Law Enforcement Protection Program.
>Unanimously accepted more than $310,000 in Transportation Enhancement funds.
The city will use the grant money to install bicycle and pedestrian trails along Wilkinson Boulevard.
>Unanimously accepted $10,000 from the state’s Transportation Cabinet to help repair and replace sidewalks and curbs along Louisville Road.