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City council discusses mayor's unpaid utility bill

By: Whitney Burks Email
By: Whitney Burks Email

Paintsville city officials are still trying to figure out what the next step is after it was made public that the mayor had not paid his utility bill in nearly three years and his utilities were never cut off.

Thursday during a special called meeting between the city council and the utilities commission more questions were answered, but it is still unknown what consequences, if any, the mayor will face.

Then the council addressed the mayor himself, saying it is clear the public has lost a lot of trust in him.

It is news that shook many of the people and officials in this small town.

"We did not take it lightly. We took it very seriously, and we're very concerned about it," said Councilman Mark McKenzie.

During Thursday's meeting between Paintsville City Council and the utilities commission, many questions were raised, beginning with how did it happen, and who was at fault?

Utilities commissioners say former General Manager Larry Herald, who abruptly resigned last week, knew what was happening all along.

"He should have known that shouldn't he?" asked Councilman Jim Meek.

"He did know it. Office staff was instructed by him not to disconnect service," said Utilities Commission Chairman Mitch Kinner.

There were also questions raised about reports that if the mayor had paid the late fees that should have accrued on his bill, he would have owed nearly $50,000.

"They're skewed. They were inflated. We have a ten percent penalty, but that's not a compound penalty. It's a one time penalty," said Kinner, adding that the total on the bill would have been $7900, but Porter paid approximately $7100.

The council addressed the mayor himself, saying it is clear the public has lost a lot of trust in him.

Porter did not say much during the discussions except pointing out that he thinks it should have been a more private matter, not in the hands of the city.

"You would hope that you could work those things out with the entity you owe the bill with, rather than through the newspapers, but that's one of the hazards of being an elected official I guess," he said.

Councilman McKenzie said the council is not taking the matter lightly, and the council will continue discussing what its next steps are.

"The events that have happened in the last 10 days, there's a very involved process that we have to go through as a legislative body to deal with," he said.

The utilities commission is getting an independent investigation of its policies and procedures, and council members say they will continue discussions on the issue.

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