By most accounts, the Kentucky Capital Development Corporation meeting held on Tuesday was routine. Bills were approved to be paid; President/CEO Terri Bradshaw updated the board on its ongoing effort to clarify its role relative to other similar local agencies; and they discussed signage at the local industrial park.
The board also voted the only three members to fill its three executive committee positions.
But those three members didn’t constitute a sufficient quorum (a majority) and therefore went against both local ordinance and state open meetings law, according to both city and county attorneys.
“I’ve looked at the statutes, ordinances and bylaws governing KCDC and I don’t see anything that indicates they could hold a meeting and transact business without a quorum of the entire body,” City Attorney Laura Ross wrote.
The State Journal plans to file an open meetings complaint to the state Attorney General’s Office regarding the meeting.
Ross said it was her opinion — and she stressed that since she was not KCDC’s legal counsel, she could not speak on KCDC’s behalf — that if someone filed an open meetings complaint against the board, its actions could be invalidated.
County Attorney Rick Sparks largely agreed with Ross’ interpretation of there not being a sufficient quorum.
“There had to be four members to constitute a quorum, and apparently they only had three,” Sparks said. “If challenged, that could be a significant problem.”
Frankfort Mayor Layne Wilkerson has the authority to appoint city representatives to the board — one of which would allow for the board to hold meetings per Ross and Sparks — but said he has no timeline yet for making any appointments.
Bradshaw said that her board chair, local attorney Clay Patrick, said that he believed it was allowable for the members to hold their meeting despite only having three.
KCDC attorney Rob Kellerman deferred to Patrick, who did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Bradshaw, for her part, said that she needed her board to hold the meeting — and it had not held one in two months, having cancelled its planned July meeting — in order to pay the bills.
“The executive committee is responsible for approving all expenditures and signing checks,” Bradshaw said. “With the inability to pay bills we were accruing late fees and we did not feel that was an appropriate way to spend taxpayer funds or a responsible way to run a city/county agency. “
The KCDC board has only had three of six total possible board members since mid-July. Former chair Houston Barber kicked off the abrupt wave of resignations on June 1. Zachary Horn and Heather Worthington resigned in July.
Despite having had 2½ months to fill Barber’s vacancy, and at least a month to replace Horn and Worthington, Wilkerson said he is taking his time.
“With mass resignations, three in a row like that, I have to make sure that we’re putting people in a good position and it’s not a revolving door situation,” Wilkerson said. “I want to make sure that I put people on who will serve the city well.”
The mayor said that “a couple” people have already applied to fill the board vacancies.
“It’s one thing to put one person on there when you already have five. It’s another when you have to put three at once… it can’t just be the first three people that apply, though we will consider them, of course… I want people on there that really believe that Frankfort is the place to live, to work, to play and to build your business.”
Wilkerson and Franklin County Judge-Executive Huston Wells are both ex officio members of the board, but Wilkerson did not attend, citing Ross’ opinion as the reason.
“It’s the city’s opinion that a quorum is four people on that board,” Wilkerson said.
Of late, a majority of both local elected bodies have expressed displeasure with KCDC via funding cuts and comments about the organization’s direction in the lead-up to setting this year’s fiscal budget.
The Franklin County Fiscal Court split 4-3 on a vote to cut funding by $15,000 for the second year in a row and nobody on the five-member city commission spoke against the city’s $30,000 cut this year.
In response to a letter written by Jim Daniel and James Inman critical of Bradshaw, which partially informed the Fiscal Court’s cuts, business leaders took out an ad in The State Journal defending KCDC's mission and the quality of Bradshaw's work.
Wilkerson said that a joint city-county meeting to discuss both bodies' economic development strategies, including the role that KCDC and similar agencies play, will likely take place in September. That meeting was initially scheduled for mid-August, but was pushed back due to a scheduling conflict.
Bradshaw and KCDC have also made headlines recently due to a letter that she sent the city, allegedly detailing more than 50 instances of discrimination against her. The State Journal is currently appealing the city’s denial of an open records request for Bradshaw’s letter and the city’s response.