On Monday, City Manager Keith Parker was fired without cause in a 3-2 vote by the Frankfort City Commission, less than three months before elections will be held for mayor and the city commission.

Commissioners Eric Whisman and John Sower and Mayor Bill May voted to dismiss Parker though none gave a reason in the public meeting. Commissioners Katrisha Waldridge and Scott Tippett voted against the city manager's ouster.

Questions have been raised about what brought about Parker’s termination and how it could affect Frankfort going forward.

The State Journal asked the two mayoral candidates and eight city commissioner candidates on November's general election ballot for their thoughts on this week's events. 

Mayoral candidates

Tommy Haynes

First, I am saddened with anyone losing their job, especially during these times of uncertainty resulting from the pandemic and the economic crisis. My initial reaction was surprise and puzzlement. I have no insight about the situation leading up to this action, so it is hard to give an opinion beyond that.

The city is constrained by personnel statutes and other legal provisions from revealing reasons from some personnel actions. Without knowing the reason for the dismissal of the city manager, I cannot pass judgment on this decision of the commission.

In previous comments I have consistently said that I fully support the city manager form of government in Frankfort. For this form of government to be effective, the roles and duties of the Board of Commissioners and the city manager must be clearly understood and respected by both parties.

Layne Wilkerson

Over the past couple of days, I have been contacted by people on both sides who feel very passionately about the recent termination of City Manager Keith Parker. Keith and I have met on a few occasions and I believe we could have worked well together. I wish him well in his future endeavors.

If I were mayor, would I have done the same thing? Without inside information, I cannot say. I do not have any more information than the rest of the public on the circumstances surrounding his firing. 

Considering the current COVID crisis, though, with continued risks to public and financial health, I can say that as mayor I would not take such a consequential action unless I felt the current situation was preventing the city from responding to the needs of the people. I would also not make such a dramatic move unless a plan was in place to ensure continuity of leadership. 

I think that it is essential at this point to look forward and make the best of this situation. I call on the mayor and current commission to begin the process of selecting a new city manager but leave the final decision of who to hire to the next mayor and city commission. 

I hope that in the remaining term of the current commission that they can put the current hard feelings aside, stop the public in-fighting, and focus on what is essential: leading Frankfort through the current COVID crisis and beyond.

Commission candidates

Harry Carver

The current situation that led to the firing of city manager Keith Parker is not new. The mayor, who apparently does not appreciate our city manager form of government, has been undermining the work of city managers for years. Instead of leading an effort to change to a “strong mayor” form that he seems to prefer (which would require a vote of citizens), he has instead chosen to create the dysfunction in city government that has kept Frankfort from moving forward.

Now, with the compliance of several commissioners, he has abused the “emergency“ powers granted to him during this pandemic. Why would the hiring of a public relations firm be so necessary and urgent that it couldn’t wait for commission approval? And in a time where our economic future is uncertain, the mayor and commissioners are wheeling and dealing to fund legacy projects instead of leaving a legacy of fiscal soundness for the city.

Keith Parker is a capable administrator who was doing his job. Because of that, I’m sure he had concerns about the commission’s actions. And instead of dealing with it in a straightforward manner, Mayor May and Commissioners Sower and Whisman acted with an appalling lack of transparency that undermines public confidence in government.

Kelly May

Given the information we are allowed access to as citizens, it's difficult for me to say if I support the decision to fire the city manager or not at this point. I, like so many of us, hope that we can get some answers as to how and why the decision was made as soon as possible.

I understand the city may be bound by the law in what information is ultimately released, but I will wait to make a "yes or no" statement until I am able to look at and interpret all of the facts before making that decision.

As I write this response, I can simply say that I wish Mr. Parker and his family the best and thank him for his time serving our great community. I worked with Keith and several others on multiple community events hosted at both downtown businesses I’ve been fortunate to be a part of and can say he was always willing to help us achieve our goals. 

I also hope our current commission will continue to work towards making Frankfort the best it can be and that they continue to operate in as transparent a fashion as the law allows. What our community deserves from our elected officials is professionalism, communication, unity and transparency and I believe these values will be the key to clearing up this divisive discussion. 

Anna Marie Rosen

This week’s firing of City Manager Keith Parker “without cause” is a symptom of an ongoing problem of the Frankfort mayor and city commission. Time after time an incoming city manager is lauded as just what Frankfort needs, and is then shown the door about 18 months later. Each time this happens makes it harder to attract qualified city manager candidates.

Perhaps the problem resides in the mayor’s office, not the city manager’s. Keith Parker is the second city manager who has been abruptly fired by these elected officials. In addition to the stress on city staff this firing comes at a critical time when the community is dealing with a health pandemic that has disrupted the daily lives of everyone, caused extensive unemployment and significantly reduced city tax income.

For no reason that has been shared with the public, our city manager has been abruptly eliminated. By all accounts he has been doing a good job of responding to citizen concerns, efficiently directing staff and implementing policies set by the mayor and city commission.

The mayor has made no attempt at transparency. Why? The citizens of Frankfort deserve an explanation!

The loss of an experienced manager at this critical time effectively sabotages the reliability of city government and is a detriment to the people of Frankfort. From my perspective Keith was responsive to the homeowners that I directed to him for help, asked good clarifying questions during meetings, and was doing an excellent job. The loss of his management ability and leadership skills effectively undermines the success of the new mayor and commission, adding to the challenges for our community during this critical time. 

Diane Strong

The firing of Keith Parker was concerning on many fronts. While I feel strongly that the citizens of Frankfort who voted for our commission and mayor deserve to know the reasoning behind the firing, I am aware that they are not required to divulge any specifics.

The city manager serves at the pleasure of the mayor and commissioners. The majority found that Mr. Parker was not serving as desired. Of utmost concern is that this action continues an alarming pattern of hiring fully vetted professionals then witnessing them leave within a few years, in the last two cases, less than two years.

Clearly, there is dysfunction in this system that’s not seen in other successfully running cities. This pattern costs the city and community enormously in unproductive time, catching up to speed and, sadly, in bad PR.

The timing of the firing was extremely worrisome. Common sense should tell any leader that firing a city manager who has been so intimately involved in one of, if not the, largest developments in downtown Frankfort (on its cusp of fruition) is not advised. If Parcels B and C should fall through as a result of this situation, the future of Frankfort’s economy could be in jeopardy.

It only takes three people to change the trajectory of our city. That’s pretty profound. I think a major majority as opposed to a simple majority might be a better requirement for the firing of the city manager in the future. Removing the gag clause on exiting city managers might help us understand better why they don’t last.

Given the positive response from various city entities I would vote to rehire Keith Parker back as city manager if elected. A city manager who works so well with his community is a huge asset.

Kyle Thompson

The recent termination of our city manager after only 18 months is just another example of Frankfort city government working against progress and growth and causing damage to the public perception of our community.

Typically, a city manager’s role in our form of government is to run the day-to-day operations of city government based on the policies approved by the mayor and city commission.

However in Frankfort over the last few years it is clearly evident that the mayor and certain members of the city commission do not like this form of government structure and are sabotaging our community’s future based on their egos and thirst of power. These elected officials’ thirst for power has led them to the point that they want to control every aspect of city government whether or not it makes business sense or can be implemented without damage to the community. 

What many are seeing this week is a culmination of 30 years of a "Me" mentality, instead of leadership focused on "We" the people.

It is embarrassing that only two commissioners had the fortitude to stand against something so blatantly wrong, at a time when we need our leaders to care for the collective good instead of cementing their legacies with plaques and platitudes.

Keith Parker is a man of integrity and hard work. In our society, that is all you can ask of your leaders: Get the job done and be honest about it. 

Unfortunately, future city leaders will be limited, financially and politically, by the shortsighted actions of a few in power currently.

That is our lasting legacy of this group of politicians that has, once again, limited Frankfort from reasonable expectations of growth and prosperity.

So the question we must ask now and in November, are you ready for real change and new, transformative leadership for our hometown? "We" need to come together for a brighter future in our capital city!

Leesa Unger

I was surprised by the dismissal of Keith Parker from the position of Frankfort city manager, but considering the turnover in this position over the past four years, I wasn’t shocked.

This year has been filled with uncertainty and elevated stress, not only because of the unprecedented illness and death from COVID-19, but also because we finally are bringing to light social injustices and demanding a call of action. During this time, our community’s main mission should be to remain sane, safe and healthy, but the firing of Keith Parker did not achieve any of those goals.

Our city relies on our city manager to keep operations running smoothly, and there has never been information relayed to the community that he has done anything but that. Six months into COVID-19 and we fire our city manager without cause.

How will this affect our day-to-day operations? How do you think this makes other city staff feel? How will Frankfort be able to locate and maintain another quality city manager during a pandemic, when the candidate could potentially be dismissed without cause at any moment?

Has this caused another ripple of unnecessary stress among Frankfort citizens? I think so. Personnel shakeups for seemingly no reason during an already tense time are bound to rattle people’s confidence in the steadiness of their elected officials. 

Our leadership needs compassion, honesty and patience. We need to be diligent with our budget since we are unsure where this pandemic will leave us, and we need to be focused on the health and livelihood of our citizens.

Katrisha Waldridge

I believe that the firing of Keith Parker is unjust and I believe that it shows cowardly and poor leadership. Hiding behind the clause “without cause” is very cowardly.

Even as the mayor shared in last night’s meeting — you could tell he was trying to talk around things — he was trying to explain to residents what the clause is. People know what the clause is, but they don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors.

He made the statement that “there’s going to be pertinent information that only the city commissioners and the board is going to have that residents wouldn’t have.” It’s interesting that you say that because I’m a city commissioner and I don’t have one reason at all to say that Keith Parker should have been fired. Why don’t I have that information?

I think we are now in the hands of personal agendas. He is now sacrificing the residents and the city for their personal agendas.

Eric Whisman

Monday’s decision was not an easy one and I understand that it leaves many unanswered questions. But it was necessary and made with great thought and substantial reason, though I understand that not everyone will accept that. 

I wish that I could divulge the facts of the case as I know would change the perspective of many. However, Kentucky law requires that personnel decisions are confidential for the benefit of the employee and the employer, and therefore it is clear that I and the commission cannot discuss these matters publicly at this time. These are the rules that we must follow and to do otherwise would be negligible for all parties involved.

I'm confident that when all the facts come to light that people will agree the right choice was made. Any decision to let an employee go is a very difficult one and even more so when it affects so many people. I ask the community to be wary of hearsay and false narratives being perpetuated, and to withhold judgement until more is made public.

I have been fully aware of the impact that this decision may have to my person and my bid for reelection, but know that I will always put the people of this town and our future first. I will continue to lead through the position I am elected to with integrity and fierce loyalty to my hometown! 

Recommended for you

Load comments

Thank you for reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.