Ousted Barbourville mayor files appeal

By: Angela Sparkman, Matthew Rand, Eric Eckstrom Email
By: Angela Sparkman, Matthew Rand, Eric Eckstrom Email
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BARBOURVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) -
3/21/14

Attorneys for ousted Barbourville mayor David Thompson have filed an appeal in court regarding city council's decision to remove him from office.

The complaint asks a judge to overturn the removal and re-instate Thompson to office.

Attorneys wrote in the court filing that council members had already decided to remove him before the hearing, which violated his rights.

It also states there is no evidence Thompson had any official misconduct in office.
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3/13/14

Thursday afternoon the Barbourville City Council selected current council member Darren West as the City's interim mayor. West replaces David Thompson, who was voted out after accusations of misconduct and a conflict-of-interest, based on findings released in January by a state auditor.

“This community wants better for itself, and i want to help it grow to make this a family-friendly, business-friendly community,” says Darren West, Barbourville’s newly selected interim mayor.

West was unanimously selected by the city council Thursday following the removal of its former mayor David Thompson earlier this week.

“Hopefully it makes the city able to move forward, and make progress [with] what we've been working on since we've been elected to these offices,” says Sherman Lawson, city councilman of Barbourville,

That journey forward was halted in recent weeks when the former mayor was accused of misconduct and a conflict-of-interest based on a state audit. Community members came into the meeting Thursday still reflecting those wounds.

“I do believe that as a result of the audit that was performed by the state that the citizens, the taxpayers and the voters deserve an explanation, and answers. We just hope we can move forward in the right direction that we can trust our tax dollars with,” says Tamara Sanborn, a Barbourville Resident.

West says he understands re-establishing that trust is important, and it’s something he will focus on moving forward.

“I hope that by the council electing me tonight, that it's a big step toward that trust. my goal is to be very transparent. to be the most transparent administration that we have ever had,” West said.

West says he has high hopes for the future of Barbourville.
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3/11/14:

David Thompson is out as mayor of Barbourville.

The city council voted to remove Thompson, after a state forensic audit uncovered multiple instances of financial mismanagement and abuse.

Dozens of concerned citizens crowded city hall for Tuesday night's special open hearing.

The council accused Mayor David Thompson of misconduct and conflict of interest, based on findings released in January by State Auditor Adam Edelen.

After about two and a half hours of deliberation, the council voted unanimously to remove Thompson from office.

"The council made it clear, I think tonight, that they were here to serve, that they were here to do what the auditor suggested they do, which is to restore the trust of the taxpayers of the City of Barbourville, and the auditor clearly felt like that trust had been breached," said Joe Childers, attorney representing the council.

"I was not shocked," said Thompson's attorney Billy Taylor. "As I stated in my closing argument, the council members were my judge, jury and executioner. They made it clear before that their decision was to remove the mayor, of which they have done."

The city council concluded the hearing without naming an interim mayor to replace Thompson.

Thompson's attorney says they plan to challenge the council's decision in Knox County Circuit Court.

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3/7/14

The Barbourville City Council wants to remove the mayor from office.

Thursday night during a council meeting, council members asked Mayor David Thompson to resign. He refused.

Now the six Barbourville City Council members are taking steps to remove him from office.

The Barbourville City Council wrote a letter outlining eleven reasons why they want Mayor David Thompson removed from office. The reasons are based on the audit on the city's finances where the state auditors alleged financial mismanagement.

The Barbourville City Council 13 page letter to Mayor David Thompson accuses him of violating state laws and city ordinances, including a conflict of interest hiring his wife to run the water park and not bidding $73,000 of work in the city.

"As a result of the audit, the audit findings had much misconduct and conflict of interest, so we asked him to resign," said Darren West, Barbourville City Councilman.

Mayor Thompson did not talk on camera on Friday but told us Thursday night he has no intentions of resigning.

"Looking at the audit, the city council has a responsibility to the people of Barbourville and we want to take on that responsibility and take action to go ahead and remove him, that is our wish anyway," said West.

In January, state auditors referred the audit to the Attorney General's office, but Mayor Thompson is not facing any charges at this time. Mayor Thompson told us he is taking steps to correct issues in the audit; however, council members are still taking the next steps to remove him from office.

"The auditor asked, his statement rather, was that he hoped the council would restore trust to the city of Barbourville and we took steps in that direction," said West.

A public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday night at 6:00pm. During the hearing the mayor can state his case on why he should remain in office.

After that hearing, the Barbourville City Council can take a vote on whether to remove him from office. If the vote is unanimous to remove him, then Mayor Thompson could be out of office.

If he is removed from office, it only affects this term and Mayor Thompson can run in an election for mayor again.

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3/6/14

Barbourville City Council members signed a letter asking the Mayor to resign on Thursday.

Officials say 6 council members asked Mayor David Thompson to resign at a City Council meeting.

The mayor released a statement on what happened during the meeting, "I have no intentions of resigning and there are no charges filed. This is just audit findings."

A public hearing is set for Tuesday at 6 to possibly remove Mayor Thompson.

All of this stems from the audit done on the city.

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Update 2/24/14:

Dozens of concerned citizens crowded a special meeting of the Barbourville City Council Monday night.

Officials called the meeting to explain to the public how the city is responding to a state audit released last month that uncovered multiple cases of financial mismanagement and abuse.

"It's been a little bit of a roller coaster," said councilman Darren West. "Despite what the mayor says, there is money missing, and we just need to figure out where it's at."

City leaders and community members traded questions and concerns in the town hall forum.

"Some of us had not seen the report," said Frances Dunn, a concerned member of the community. "I was glad that we went item by item, so that we could get some idea of what was going on."

Auditors found multiple cases of lax oversight and mismanagement, including a contractor the city paid $73,000 for work that could have been done by city workers.

The report found a number of issues with the Barbourville Brickyard Waves Water Park.

Auditors say Mayor David Thompson should not have been involved in hiring his wife to manage the park.

In all, the auditor made 28 separate findings and recommendations.

City officials say they are in the process of putting those recommendations into practice.

"Because we want to get something of value out of this process, and I think that's what the audit process does," said city attorney Charley Greene Dixon, Jr.

While some of the issues brought up by the audit might be difficult to swallow, officials say the change they will bring will help the city get back on track.

"Although I realize this was initially aimed at me to start with, I realize that the city has benefited from it," said mayor David Thompson.

The mayor says the council will likely vote to adopt the auditor's recommendations at its next regular meeting.

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Original Story 1/7/14:

State auditors are referring the city of Barbourville audit to the Attorney General's Office, the Kentucky Department of Revenue, and Cabinet for Health and Family Services for review.

The audit started last year at the request of five of the six city council members.

The audit covered 2007 to August of last year.

The audit report released on Tuesday claims there is lax controls and oversight that led to financial abuse in the city.

The audit states the city of Barbourville has 28 financial issues.

One was paying a general contractor, plumber, and electrician $73,000 for work city workers could have done. The audit also claims bids were not obtained for the contractor work.

Auditors say the mayor and his wife cashed checks for employees and vendors indicating the possibility some payments were not for the benefit of the city.

Others problems include not receiving money from vendor machines or aluminum sales.

"This saddens me and is very unfortunate for the taxpayers of the City of Barbourville," said Council member Darren K. West, one of the council members who requested the audit.

"Although findings were expected in the audit, I think the key issue here is there was no money reported missing," said Mayor Thompson.

Auditors also had problems with the Barbourville Brickyard Waves Water Park. Auditors say Mayor David Thompson should not have been part of the process hiring his wife to run the water park. The audit also claims concession money was never reported to the recreation board.

"The public has no idea how much money these park concessions made or how it was spent. Parks may seem like small potatoes to some, but they are important community assets," State Auditor Adam Edelen said in a news release.

The mayor says he will resign from the recreation and tourism boards.

"It saddens me we have this condition, this type of things going on in the city, but I'm glad it's brought to light. I'm glad we can move forward," said West.

Local officials say they are already fixing the issues and looking at the recommendations from the state audit.

"I'm sure all of council is going to look at it and review it the best way we can. The recommendations, we definitely want to follow through with," said West.

"Myself, the city attorney, and the city clerk have went over the findings and are preparing letters for each individual department and each department should have the findings corrected in 30 days at this point," said Mayor Thompson.

"I hope the Barbourville City Council will implement the recommendations in the report and restore the taxpayers' trust," Auditor Edelen said.

Barbourville City Council next meets on Thursday at 6:00pm.


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