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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

City Council Round-UP: Fire Department Recognized, Highland Hills Dog Park Rules to Change and Employee Residence Requirement Debate

Mike, Michael, Andrew and Maria Siska
and Jennie King. The group was recognized for their work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association. 

Note: This story has been updated with the information in red.
The Fort Thomas Fire Department was recognized by the Muscular Dystrophy Association after presenting the MDA with a check, the Parks Committee suggested changes to the Highland Hills Dog Park and the first reading of an employee residence requirement ordinance change caused a heated debate in council's chambers. Here’s your round-up:

Fire Department
Jennie King, a Fort Thomas resident who is with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, was at the meeting to receive a check from the Fort Thomas Fire Department and present the department with a recognition. The department and the MDA partnered to raise funds at the Merchants and Music Festival to help send kids with Muscular Dystrophy to summer camp. Volunteers passed the boot around the festival for donations.

"The Muscular Dystrophy Association and fire fighters have a 60 year tradition of raising funds together," said King.  "Local money pays for the local children to attend camp at no cost. The $1,115 collected by the Fort Thomas Fire Fighters, along with the other money raised locally, goes to all of that plus paying for research."

Mike, Maria, Michael and Andrew Siska were recognized at the meeting. The Fort Thomas family has been working with the MDA for nearly a decade since Andrew was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. Maria spoke for the family describing how great camp and the association has been for Andrew. "It's been a great experience for him. We're very grateful."

Highland Hills Dog Park
The Recreation Committee met prior to the council meeting to discuss the rules at the Highland Hills Dog Park. Councilwoman Lisa Kelly reported to council that the committee suggests changing and adding rules to include: all dogs must have current and county rabies tags, dogs must be spayed or neutered, no squeaky toys permitted, no pinch collars and no retractable leashes. City Administrator Don Martin was advised to draft an ordinance so that all the dog park rules will become a law with consequences if violated. 

Employee Residence Requirement
Although no one on council requested an ordinance be written to change the employee residence requirement, the first reading of the ordinance appeared on the agenda. The current ordinance requires key employees (the fire chief, police chief and city administrator) to live within Fort Thomas city limits, however council can waive the requirement if they see fit. Fire Chief Mark Bailey and Martin do not live in city limits but instead in Cold Spring and unincorporated Kenton County respectively.

Martin stated at a council meeting this summer that the city did not have a residency requirement. However, it was discovered that it does but the mayor waived the requirement for Martin. In previous meetings, Martin and Mayor Mary Brown repeatedly stated that the mayor has the right to waive the requirement for the city administrator and chiefs. However, the ordinance clearly states that only council can waive the requirement for the city administrator. The city administrator is the only person who can waive the requirement for the police and fire chiefs. 

This was discussed once early this summer in council's chambers when Martin presented council with a proposed ordinance to do away the requirement. However, Councilman Jay Fossett, who chairs the Law, Labor and License Committee, requested it be discussed in committee before a decision was made. At that meeting, Fossett said "This is not a comment on Don's or anyone else's performance; I think he's done a great job here. But wouldn't it be beneficial for these folks to be here on the weekends, off-work hours, getting to know the community?"

Law, Labor and License Committee members Fossett and Kelly suggested the ordinance should remain the same while the third member, Councilman Roger Peterman, disagreed. The issue had been dropped since the August 4 meeting leaving the ordinance as is. The current ordinance requires residency, giving the employee time to move to the city or giving council the option to waive the requirement for the city administrator and the giving the administrator the option to waive the requirement for the fire chief and police chief. 

However, the issue showed up on the November 17 agenda without direction from city council. "I'm the chairman of the committee and I'm surprised it's back here on the agenda," said Fossett. 

Brown said she directed Martin to draft the ordinance. "It was on the books and we have not enforced it," she said. 

However, after being questioned, City Attorney Jann Seidenfaden, informed the Mayor and council that only council members can request that an ordinance be drafted, not the mayor. Peterman then stated that he would be the council member to present the ordinance on record. This obviously caused some confusion since he agreed to present the ordinance after Martin had already written the ordinance based on the Mayor's direction. 

Fossett asked council to postpone the first reading until the December meeting. A vote is not held until the second reading and he is unable to attend the next meeting. "I want to be able to vote on this," he said. "The current ordinance as it reads is appropriate. I want to encourage employees to live here. I like having that legislation so we can make the decision. Cincinnati has it and I think it's a good rule."

Peterman said he doesn't think it is needed. "I would suggest that we are not likely to hire a city manager that is a candidate for Cincinnati."

City Councilman Ken Bowman, Kelly and Fossett made it clear they like having the option to require residency. All agreed that living in the city allows employees to understand the city's needs. 

"It can work the other way," said Brown adding that it can be a conflict of interest. "When you say it would be best if they live in the city, I don't agree with that."

Although Fossett pleaded to the Mayor and council that they postpone the reading, the first reading was held. It seemed that some members of council and Brown were determined to overturn the residency requirement before the new year when Brown will no longer be mayor and Councilman Eric Haas, who will take Brown's seat, Fossett and Councilman Tom Lampe will no longer be on council. 

When asked, Peterman said he was not trying to push it through before the end of the year, but added "the new council can overturn it if they want."

The next council meeting will be held December 1. 


  1. This town is dirty. Am I reading this right? Mary Brown thought she could just bypass council and create an ordinance on her own? How long has she been the mayor of our fair city? Sound like Obama much?

  2. I can see maybe an argument for not requiring the fire chief here. It there were a fire and he needed to get here from Cold Spring, I guess that is why they have chain of command.

    But the city official should definitely have to live here. Why would he be allowed to impose rules and shape the way we pay taxes if he's not subject to the same rules?

    If this is not enforced, why bring it up? The logic with some of these council members is laughable. Only enforce rules when it benefits them. Really mayor?

  3. Still surprised that this is an issue. No other Northern KY city (aside from Newport, a shining example) requires its City Manager or City Administrator to live in the City. Sure, it made sense in the horse and buggy days, when the administrator was also part of the local fire bucket brigade, but the advent of the Model T and paved roads changed that.

    I'd prefer the focus be on important topics, like taxes and public safety, but those things must not be juicy enough for FTM.

    1. Christopher RiebholtNovember 18, 2014 at 12:25 PM

      Funny you should compare FT to other cities here. Have seen this exact rhetoric before. Wonder who anonymous is? Hmmmm.

    2. What does FTM have to do with the City Manager living in the city? FTM is just reporting it -- fairly and with non-bias, I might add.

  4. This is a big issue. Ft. Thomas is an attractive place to live and our highest paid employee with great benefits, by the way, should WANT to live here. It's a simple question, really. Does someone who does not have to interact with the residents of the town have their best interest at heart?

    By the way, Anonymous, here are some recent "taxes and public safety" stories for you.

    Public Safety:

  5. Sound a bit self serving to change the ordinance now…

  6. First of all, Don Martin lied this summer when asked by a resident if there was a clause in his employment contract – he was in fact required to live in the city (and I think he should). Secondly, he said he was “saving” all of the Ft Thomas community and their families from vicious pit bulls – and yet he personally and happily lives with his wife/children in a community that allows them (without issue). Let him be City Administrator is his community – he clearly doesn’t know or represent ours. That he has a say in anything related to a community he DOESN’T live in is a ludicrous. And please, Mary Brown has done what she wants and how she wants to since day one! Her interest has never been the betterment of the city.

    1. My interactions with Mr. Martin have left me scratching my head. His flippant attitude and seeming lack of interest in the issues unique to Ft. Thomas, are bizarre. I say time for a change. New mayor, new council, new City Administrator.

  7. First of all, this has nothing to do with Mr. Martin's personal life. I have no idea about it and it shouldn't even enter the equation. Speaking specifically about this issue, the residency issue, IS a big deal and perhaps and even BIGGER deal is the way in which he and Mary Brown are trying to slide it in.

    If this council had any cojones, they would stop these shenanigans right now. This doesn't smell right.

  8. Mary Brown Talks about a conflict of interest if a resident were the city administrator. Get a clue. I would much rather have someone that lives here making the decisions then somebody outside the city who has no skin in the game.

    Paging Adam Caswell. Brent Cooper. Shame on the council and the mayor for trying to sneak this in. What's the tally on the vote? Has there been one yet?

    Lame ducks should abstain.