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2003-04-02 page one

Council wants to boot mayor
Inez commissioners outline reasons
Lilly Adkins

INEZ A public hearing has been tentatively set for April 22, at which time Inez Mayor Rick Penix will answer to allegations of misconduct and dereliction of duty that could determine whether he will continue to hold the mayoral office.

In a special meeting Monday, Inez commission members cited 26 reasons for Penix's removal from office.

"The way you have behaved lately is atrocious," Commissioner Ann Maynard said.

"That wasn't the opinion of the voters at the last election," Penix said.

"A lot has happened since then," Maynard said.

"People (elected) you to do your job and you haven't done anything," Commissioner Charlotte Endicott said.

"I've been locked out of city hall and prevented from doing my job," Penix said. "I feel like I'm in a hostile work environment."

KRS 83A.040 (9) states that "in case of misconduct, incapacity, or willful neglect in the performance of the duties in his office, may be removed from office by a unanimous vote of the members of the legislative body." It also says that the elected officer has a right to a full public hearing and, the officer if removed, shall have the right to appeal to the circuit court of the county.

Commissioners agreed Monday that one reason to be considered involved Penix's failure to oversee the former city clerk's performance as city treasurer, which resulted in city bills dating as far back as 1997 going unpaid.

The commission said Penix failed to enforce payment of taxes, including federal, state and unemployment taxes which resulted in a debt of over $14,000, not including late fees and penalties.

Penix allegedly failed to ensure the clerk/treasurer paid County PVA Tim Robinson over a three-year period, which resulted in a debt of $1,800.

The commission alleges that Penix signed checks every month for at least four years for mileage reimbursement for the former city clerk even though the beginning and ending odometer readings were not provided as required by the city personnel policy manual.

Penix allegedly signed checks for contract labor that was never performed and he allegedly signed checks for the former city clerk for at least four years for a salary that could not be proven legal, and he then aggressively fought attempts by the commission to rectify the situation.

The commission said Penix had signed checks for the former city clerk for pay which was not earned or deserved and that over many years, the employee was given thousands of dollars in overtime, even though the clerk was not fulfilling her contract with the city.

After the commission had declined to approve bonuses and tabled the discussion, Penix allegedly signed a check for $150 during December 2002 for the former city clerk and permitted the clerk to cash it without having rendered additional services.

The commission accused Penix of using city taxpayer's assets, including the computer; copy machine; telephone; fax; paper and city time at $12/hour assisting the former city clerk to compile papers for her attorney, while fighting attempts by Commissioners Ann Maynard and Winnie Muncy to bring city expenditures under control.

After being requested by the commission to notify them when checks were being signed, Penix allegedly continued to take checks to then commissioner Esther Cassady to be signed between meetings.

Commission members allege that they were not kept informed about important meetings affecting city business, and that Penix chose instead to send an employee to represent the city.

Commission members allege that although they requested notification when the office hours would be changed, they were not informed.

"I received several phone calls at my home because people wanted to know why city hall wasn't open," Maynard said.

The commission said that Penix and the former clerk signed several sets of minutes, using the city seal, and placed the minutes in the official minute book although they had not been adopted by the commission, then locked the minutes in the "mini vault."

"I told you that if a set was signed it was by accident, most were not signed but there could be a few that were signed," Penix said. "They were definitely by accident. It was not any wrongdoing by plan."

"Well Rick, one set of minutes signed accidentally is an accident," Maynard said. "All these minutes (10 sets) are not an accident."

"Those that are passed are passed and the ones that aren't need to be identified," Penix said.

"We have an open records request from the former city clerk for copies of all of these minutes," Maynard said. "If I had not noticed, the new city clerk would not have known that they were not passed."

"Well, even though they are unofficial minutes, the former city clerk would still like to have a copy of them," Penix said.

The commission alleges that Penix used the city computer and other equipment during his campaign for re-election in 2002.

Maynard produced a letter that had been generated on one of the computers in city hall and explained that it was still in the computer. Maynard pointed out that the document said it was paid for by the candidate.

"I asked the clerk (Candy Crum) to print this out today," Maynard said.

Penix denied knowledge of the document and said that he had no idea when it was done.

"That is one of my flyers, but it could have been done at any time," Penix said.

Maynard explained that if he were to look at the date it was created by going into the properties section of the computer, he would discover "it was generated October 1, 2002."

"The city taxpayers paid for that," Commissioner Charlotte Endicott said.

The commission accused Penix of using his office as mayor to conduct regular business when he was employed as an insurance salesman.

Penix admitted that if he got calls while he was performing his duties as mayor, he took the call.

Maynard produced a letter that showed Penix had applied for a loan because his fiancee had a life threatening illness.

"I don't recall it," Penix said.

"I didn't realize you had a fiancee," Maynard said.

Penix also reportedly attempted to apply for unemployment during January 2003.

"I was told by an employee that I was eligible to draw unemployment, but I wasn't," Penix said. "Why not apply if I was entitled to it and I found out I wasn't. I was there for other reasons and just thought I would apply while I was there."

"For what?" Maynard asked. "Were you taking the former clerk to apply for unemployment for herself or were you just walking by and decided to go in and apply?"

The commission contended that Penix, as ceremonial head of the commission, had refused to pay his wastewater bill for at least two years and that he still refuses to pay the bill.

Penix said he had been making payments on it.

"That's my private business," Penix said. "That is none of your business."

"The city owns Inez Wastewater and what kind of example are you setting if you don't pay your sewer bill?" Maynard asked. "Why should anyone pay their bill if the mayor won't even pay his?"

Commissioners allege that Penix used his position as mayor to discriminate against city employees by showing favoritism to one ...insuring one had unlimited overtime and comp time... while withholding overtime for the street superintendent.

The commission alleges that Penix conspired with the former city clerk to file a false and unsubstantiated grievance against a city commissioner and, although a notary isn't required, went to the county clerk's office and had the paperwork notarized.

"Now I know it falls under unsubstantiated because I am the one it was leveled against," Maynard said. "Do you have any proof of verbal or possible physical abuse from my part to the former city clerk's part?"

"I have seen you in action and I thought there was going to be physical altercations," Penix said. "You're intimidating. You get up in someone's face and you scream at them."

Penix allegedly used city time, paper and the copier to concoct a false case of theft against a former mayor, now commissioner, then he and the former clerk attempted to have the commissioner arrested, Maynard said.

Penix denied that he had been involved in trying to have the former mayor (Winnie Muncy) arrested.

"Winnie did they attempt to have you arrested?" Endicott asked.

Muncy said, "yes."

Penix said, "That is a false lie, nobody attempted to have you arrested."

Maynard and the commission allege that Penix refused to control the former clerk while in official meetings and permitted her to slander and insult commissioners, then encouraged her to sue the city.

"You never said anything to her when she called me a lush," Maynard said.

"I told her and I told you that you are setting the city up for a lawsuit," Penix said. "And yes, I did tell the city clerk to watch what she was saying and to be quiet."

"In March 2002, she was jumping up and down like a yoyo and you never tried to control her," Maynard said.

"Well at least she never spit on the dictaphone and pounded on the table," Penix said.

"No, you're the one who pounds on the table," Maynard said.

The commission alleges that Penix aggressively organized a campaign of misinformation with the help of the former clerk against commissioners, which includes lying to the state Department for Local Government; the Kentucky League of Cities and individuals entering city hall as well as his submission of a letter sent to the editors of both local newspapers that were filled with "lies and innuendo."

"I stand behind everything that I printed to the DLG, the KLC and both newspapers," Penix said. "That is fact and I stand by it."

Penix is accused of sending the former clerk to a former commissioner's home to pick up any and all city documentation in her possession. Penix denied that he had sent Hardin to pick up any documentation.

Maynard asked Penix whether he had given Hardin permission to charge her lunches to the city. Penix first asked when, then proceeded to say that he had given her permission to pick up meals for the jail workers.

Maynard told Penix that she had been informed by the owner of the business that Hardin had charged meals for herself.

The commission alleges that Penix only contacts city hall when he is delivering a demand for the former city clerk since her February 13 firing and that he hasn't overseen the move to the city's new location; the annual Easter Egg planning nor has he been available to sign important papers making the city eligible for assistance from FEMA. The commission says that Penix won't return calls to city hall and that there are other incidents that are not mentioned because of an ongoing investigation.

"I have been here many times besides delivering open records requests from the former city clerk, which go unanswered," Penix said.

"I make a motion that we have no confidence in the mayor," Maynard said.

Commissioner Willie Sparks seconded the motion with all voting in favor.

"In accordance with KRS 83A.040, I make a motion that we offer the mayor a public hearing in order to decide whether he should be removed from office," Maynard said. "Unless you'd like to resign?"

"No, I want a public hearing," Penix said.

"I believe it is in the best interest of the city of Inez to remove a derelict and dysfunctional mayor and appoint someone who is willing to put the city first, work with and participate as a member of its commission," Maynard said.

The motion was seconded by Endicott, with all voting in favor.

The commission plans to publish a notification next week of the public hearing, which is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, April 22, in the Martin District Courtroom. A time has not yet been released.

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