An attorney for former Frankfort City Manager Keith Parker sent a letter “in the contemplation of potential litigation” to the city in late January, according to materials obtained by The State Journal through an open records request.
Parker was controversially fired in a 3-2 vote “without cause“ last year by the former city commission. Interim City Manager Tom Russell has filled the role since August. A search for the city’s next permanent city manager is underway.
Former Mayor Bill May and former Commissioners John Sower and Eric Whisman voted to fire Parker.
Parker told The State Journal this week that he has not applied for the open city manager position, nor does he intend to. The application portal closes on Sunday.
Parker’s legal counsel is another man named Bill May, of the Lexington-based firm Hurt, Deckard & May. He sent the letter to City Attorney Laura Ross warning the city and former commissioners of potential litigation.
The former city manager himself also said he reached out to Ross to let her know.
“We sent a standard letter asking them to preserve records as there may be future litigation,” Parker said. “I personally reached out to emphasize the pending litigation and suggested we try to work this out. Just ignoring the blatant defamation after the previous commission executed the termination ‘without cause‘ portion of my contract is not an option.”
The letter requested that the city preserve all records relevant to Parker's time as city manager.
“Please do not allow any evidence to be released and/or disposed of or amended in any manner without prior written consent from our firm,” May, the attorney, wrote.
City Clerk Chermie Maxwell responded to May in February that the city had taken immediate action to preserve the following:
Parker's city email drive, which includes around 31,000 emails.
- All city emails referencing Parker in any way since his hire date as city manager in 2019, totaling approximately 200,000.
11 open records request response packets related to Parker.
Personnel files related to Parker.
All responsive records kept on city-issued cellphones.
- All other hard-copy documents related to Parker.
Maxwell said that one commissioner had not turned in his city-issued phone as of Tuesday afternoon.
Whisman said Tuesday that he was not aware of the letter and that he was working with city IT Director Bobby Ripy to get his phone turned in. Whisman said he did not often use the phone.
No former commissioners offered comment on the potential litigation, nor did former Mayor May.
In explaining alleged "defamation" on the part of some former commission members, Parker pointed to former Mayor May hinting at the commission having "reasons" for firing Parker despite doing so "without cause."
May has not publicly given any reason for Parker's firing, but he did comment on a highly publicized staff complaint filed just a week before Parker's dismissal, saying that it "speaks for itself."
Some former commissioners and May have defended the "without cause" designation as a technical protection for Parker, who got a severance package that included $70,000 in pay, as he looks for future employment.
"I am applying for jobs and the public remarks made by the previous commission are things that will affect my future employment," Parker said.
He also mentioned comments that Whisman made, and later backtracked on, regarding Parker moving funds as city manager without the commission's knowledge. Parker did, in fact, alert the commission of his intentions in those situations.
Parker also mentioned comments by John Sower, who spent a majority of his closing comments as commissioner explaining Parker's situation from the commission's perspective. He ended on a recommendation to future commissions that if Parker or anyone else were to apply in the future "they should first investigate them thoroughly."