By Bobbie Poynter
Mayor David Thompson spent the first days of the New Year going through city council actions that have taken place since he was last in office. The mayor has some questions and concerns for the council members and members of the community. He has also been considering some difficult and different problems the council will be working on in the next four years.
Top of the mayor’s list of concerns is the amount of the city‘s legal fees over the last nine months.
City financial records indicate that over the last seven years the city paid out an average of $3,600 a year, or $300 a month in legal fees. In the last nine months alone, the city accrued over $15,000 in legal fees. The mayor wants to make council members aware of the numbers they’ve been paying out on legal fees under the former administration.
“I’m concerned the city can’t afford this kind of financial losses, and I‘m not sure if the council is aware of how much has actually been spent on legal advice in the last nine months,” said Thompson.
According to Thompson, the city had a verbal agreement with the late city attorney, Charley Greene Dixon, to pay him a $300-a-mornth retainer fee. When attorney Gilbert Holland filled in for Dixon during his illness, he agreed to the same terms.
The current City Attorney, Chris Mills, who took over the position in May, 2014, signed a written legal contractual agreement for representation of the city at $300 a month that expired at the end of 2014. However, the city’s records indicate much higher billing amounts. “The extra billing would have been hourly work at the request of the city, including drafting ordinances, dealing with personnel issues, investigating an open records request, and other duties and dealings that came at the request of the mayor or city council,” said Mills.
The mayor and city attorney met this week to discuss plans for significantly reducing the amount of legal fees attributed to running the city in the future. Both men are confident a reasonable contract can be agreed upon.
An additional concern the mayor plans to present to the council is the lack of payment of past debts to the late city attorney, Charley Greene Dixon.
“In my seven years in office we have never not paid our debts,” said Thompson. “To my knowledge, no vender ever went unpaid. We don’t want the city to think we don’t pay our vendors. It’s the council’s choice to pay or not to pay the bills.”
And finally, but certainly not the last, the mayor expressed concern over the shortage of manpower and delegation of duties at the Barbourville Police Department. Over the mayor’s seven years in office he said he saw the Barbourville Police Department grew to a different level. As a whole, the department together worked bank robberies, murders, drug cases, and also implemented the first drug forfeiture program for the City of Barbourville.
Then, during the last nine months, the department has gone a different direction.
“Yes, we answer calls, yes we work wrecks, but in the past we went above and beyond a working police department,” the mayor spoke for the police department. “So, do we want a police department that works or do we want a working police department?”
For that reason, the mayor plans to present some numbers to the council and see what direction they want the police department to take in the next four years.
The mayor has collected a growing list of other concerns that he also plans to discuss with the council, but those, he says, can be brought up in the future.
“We’ve got time,” he said. “We have another four years to get it right.”