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Sun, Mar 26, 2017 05:59 PM
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue
P'burg council's insider deal may be a no-no
PRESTONSBURG — Rather than seek bids on what might have been a more lucrative piece of downtown property, Prestonsburg City Council members voted in January to sell the tract for its appraised value...to one of their own.

On March 24, the city sold a 2,602 square-foot tract of property on North Front Avenue to councilman Billy Ray Collins for $8,000. The property is adjacent to property Collins owns where his restaurant burned last year.

At the Jan. 2 special meeting, council voted to declare the property surplus and have it appraised and sold for the appraised value.

Council indicated at that January special meeting the property would be obtained and another parcel leased to Collins in order to help him rebuild his restaurant without having to build an expensive firewall.

Collins abstained from voting on the matter.

The March sale of the property appears, however, to be in violation of state law and could lead to Collins' removal from office.

According to Kentucky Revised Statute 61.251, city officials or employees cannot contract with the city they represent or work for in the "sale, lease or purchase of any interest in real or personal property for the provision of any service."

Any contract an official or employee may be allowed to participate in must be competitively bid, be part of a public agency's official record and deemed to be in the best interests of the public and agency, the law says.

Penalties for violation of that law "shall be grounds for removal from office or employment" from the public agency.

Minutes of the Jan. 2 special meeting do not indicate specifically that Collins would be sold the property or leased the other tract, and city officials have not specified how the sale to Collins was in the city's best interests.

Neither city attorney David Neeley nor Mayor Jerry Fannin returned messages seeking their comments on when and if the property was advertised for bids; how many bids were received if it was advertised; or when council voted to specifically sell the property and lease other city property to Collins.

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