Let ethics scar heal

Published:

It’s understandable that former City Commissioner Kathy Carter wanted to clear her name after the City Board of Ethics penalized her $1,000 two years ago for the extraordinary steps she took to get her rental property approved for occupancy. Nobody likes to be branded unethical, especially after building a reputation for working hard to improve blighted parts of the city and make decent housing available to people who sorely need it.

Carter chose to appeal the ethics board decision while her co-defendant, City Manager Anthony Massey, paid his civil fine. Although the City Commission ultimately fired him, he ended up with a severance package of nearly $100,000 and found a new job in Georgia.

Unless she pursues additional litigation, Carter’s appeal has come to an end with last week’s ruling by Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate that the Board of Ethics was justified in its decision.

Carter – and everyone else who was involved or just took an interest in the case – should put this affair in perspective. Yes, a finding of unethical conduct is a bitter pill to swallow, but not all unethical conduct is created equal. Some violate standards out of pure, unalloyed greed. The former commissioner does not appear to be of that ilk, however aggressively she may have pushed to get her way and manipulate City Hall into issuing a certificate of occupancy for her Hoge Avenue duplex when it lacked the requisite framing and electrical inspections. There was no accusation that she bribed anyone to make it happen.

Local government has a checkered history of local politicians meddling in the day-to-day business of city administration. It’s hard for elected leaders to refuse when constituents call asking for their help. Although Carter was acting as a private citizen when she complained city inspectors were harassing her – partly, she said, because she’d voted to phase out longevity pay incentives – the commissioner also depicted herself as coming to defense of other private citizens who’ve been exasperated in their own dealings with municipal government. Mayor Gippy Graham made a similar point in the ethics hearing, saying he’d heard complaints from business people that inspectors sometimes seemed to take delight in their misery.

What set Carter apart from most individuals was her ability, as a commissioner, to gain immediate access to the mayor and the city manager to make her case. Massey, in particular, went to great lengths assisting her cause. When no one else in the codes enforcement department would cooperate, he took it upon himself to sign a temporary certificate of occupancy even though Carter’s property had not been approved. The housing units did pass inspection later.

While Carter maintained on appeal that no evidence connected her actions to the outcome attained through Massey’s intervention, the judge found she did get what she wanted, “and there is no other explanation for how that end was achieved than that she intentionally used her position as a city commissioner to receive it.”

If she wants to pursue additional appeals, that’s her prerogative. However, we believe she’d clear her name more meaningfully by admitting her inside fight against City Hall was a mistake. She can help redeem herself by carrying on the “great service” Judge Wingate praised in reference to her property renovation campaign. Who knows? She might even win a second act in local politics. One lapse of ethics need not be an unforgivable offense.

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.

  • Marketing_Director, I agree 100% with you. I have been very critical of Ms. Carter & the way Frankfort politicians does business here. I am GLAD that she has finally been exposed & put in her place & It does no good to beat the dead horse. I honestly think that Gippy Graham should had been punished also because he played a big part in those back door deals.

  • Let's be clear, she had been refused an electrical inspection because there were things that needed to be FIXED that could cause a potential hazard to life! If they had given those permits and that place had burned to the ground Kathy Carter's 1st response would have been "Well the electrical inspector signed off on it." She was not only denied a permit by the city inspector but also the county inspector. If she was willing to take those steps to put the lives of people she did not know at risk and move them into a residence that had not been deemed safe, what can we expect her motives have been all the years she was a commissioner and supposedly "taking our best interests at heart"? So let us not pull out the olive branch and expect the people of Frankfort to be the ones to wave it at Kathy Carter. Kathy Carter needs to make a public apology to the people of Frankfort. Respect is earned, and then returned...

  • "There was no accusation that she bribed anyone to make it happen." Lets see. The position of city Comissioner can & ultimately was look at as a bribing tool. There are more ways to bribe than to fork over cash. "When no one else in the codes enforcement department would cooperate" Uh, lets see again. They even got the county inspector & if I am not mistaken, even more problems were cited! How much cooperation does a person need. The Inspectors were only showing integrity in doing their jobs & didn't let political heads butt bith them. I don't know the city inspector but I do know Mel Trivett & he is very hard but fair! What more can a person ask? As far as Kathy Carter goes, Yes she has done a lot of good but when people are elected into offices in this county, it brings a sense of entitlement to most. I do not ever want to serve in any office because in the end we are all human & human nature tells us to look out for ourselves & it takes a very rare breed to do a totally honest 4 year job. My stones will no longer be thrown at Ms. Carter. I truely wish her the best now that this was taken care of.