Council passes ethics package, discusses full-time mayo
The Versailles City Council Tuesday unanimously approved four ordinances that City Attorney Bill Moore called an "effort to put some teeth in the code of ethics." The first adds new terms to definitions in the code; the second further defines conflicts of interest; the third makes changes to procedures involving ethics complaints, including whistle-blower protections; and the fourth deals with matters ranging from patronage to outside employment. Before one of the votes, Council Member Laura Dake asked whether a section requiring city officers or employees to report alleged violations to the Board of Ethics conflicts with another preventing them from disclosing confidential information. "I just wanted to make sure that if somebody knew something was illegal or unethical, but it was told to them in confidence, that they would not feel hamstrung as far as reporting it to the Board of Ethics," Dake said. Traugott said he couldn't think of an example where that would happen, but during a department head meeting earlier in the day, they'd spent 30 minutes discussing that possibility. Moore said a conflict was conceivable, but that the duty to report has no exclusions. Full-time mayor? Saying such a possibility had been "kicked around" before he became mayor in 2013, Traugott brought up the issue of making the position of mayor a full-time job on Jan. 1, 2019 - after the next election. The proposed ordinance would nearly double the salary to $66,500 - and not allow the mayor to hold other paid employment. (Until the beginning of this year, Traugott was a part-time aide for state House Democratic leaders, a job he lost when Democrats lost the House majority.) He said the present pay of Woodford Judge-Executive (a constitutional office) is about $92,000 for a job that oversees only about 15 more employees than the city of Versailles. (After the meeting, Public Works Director Bart Miller said 11 city workers are employed by the water and sewer plants.) In response to a question from Council Member Ken Kerkhoff, Traugott said he'd arrived at the proposed salary figure by taking an average of the salaries of mayors or city managers of 13 Kentucky cities the size of Versailles. Council Member Owen Roberts, a former city police officer, said he'd worked for or with seven mayors, all of whom had other jobs or businesses, and that he'd always wanted Versailles to have a full-time mayor. Roberts, Kerkhoff and Council Member Mary Ellen Bradley said they'd vote for the measure, after which Traugott said he'd put a first reading for it on the agenda for the Aug. 15 council meeting. Newsletter The other chief item discussed during the council meeting was a newsletter Dake proposed putting in city water bills that would cost $440 per issue. Her first mock-up included information about city government, the council's responsibilities, and pictures of Traugott and council members and their contact information. Traugott said he agreed with Dake that the public would benefit by knowing more about the workings of city government, but said he was concerned about the newsletter serving as promotional material for elected officials. Kerkhoff said he liked the concept, but didn't believe council members should have their names in it and said he might support a quarterly newsletter heavy on upcoming events that could be paid for by a sponsor. Council Member Mike Coleman suggested beefing up the city's website and Facebook page. Dake said one of the reasons she favored a newsletter was that while everyone receives a water bill, not everyone has access to the Internet, particularly seniors. She said the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government website has bios and large pictures of council members. Public Works Director Bart Miller said the water bill is presently used for utility-specific information, like the dangers of flushing medicines and "flushable" wipes that shouldn't be flushed. Dake reiterated that she had no desire to use the newsletter to promote elected officials and that ultimately it could be used to help build the community. Traugott said the devil was in the details, such as who would write and edit the newsletter, and that his main concern is that it might eventually be used in a manner favorable to the council. The matter was tabled, but might be brought up at a future council meeting. Retirement systems The council unanimously endorsed a resolution in favor of separating the county employees' retirement system (CERS), a portion of which covers city, county, school board and other employees, from the troubled state employee retirement system. "The Kentucky Retirement System ... we all know, has been mismanaged, underfunded ... and is in a state of almost disrepair, and CERS is well-funded ..." Traugott said. Traugott said the top priority of the Kentucky League of Cities is to separate the two systems.