By Robin Gee, city council beat editor
The city of Cold Spring officials have set a special meeting date, June 4, to discuss a complaint recently filed against Cold Spring city council member Cindy Moore.
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"Of course, we are very concerned," said Cold Spring Mayor D. Angelo Penque. "The council member is not an employee of the city; she is a public official, and so, this is a matter for council."
He said a quorum from council, which was needed to proceed, asked for the meeting. According to the agenda, much of the discussion among council members could happen behind closed doors in an Executive Session because it involves litigation.
Through her attorney, Randy Blankenship, Moore issued a statement responding to the complaint against her. She charges that the complaint is politically motivated and intended to "hamper her election chances."
A local contractor, who works for the city, filed a formal complaint against council member Moore claiming unfair treatment. His affidavit is accompanied by signed letters from the city director of public works and three city employees.
The complaint alleges an incident that happened at an annual Christmas party held for city employees, contractors and officials in December 2019. Darryl Beasley, the owner of a local Jani King franchise cleaning company, said he had been a contractor with the city for more than six years and had attended the Christmas party in prior years.
In his letter, Beasley said he was approached by Moore who said she recognized him. He said he asked if perhaps they had met at the prior year’s party, but she continued to question him. He offered that, in addition to cleaning the city building, he also cleans the city police station. At this, he said Moore got visibly upset and questioned why he would be allowed to do so.
According to his complaint, he said at this point it became clear to him that the council member was under the impression that he was one of a group of inmates from the Campbell County Detention Center that the city has worked with through a work release program. In his complaint, Beasley said he felt the only reason she might presume this was because he is African American.
Moore responds to complaint
According to her statement, Moore does not deny the events that took place at the Christmas party according to Beasley. However, she states that she questioned Beasley about where they might have met before because she thought they might have worked together at some point. She says, however, that her questions were not racially motivated and the subject of inmate workers was not mentioned.
Moore included that she has voiced concerns about the use of inmates at the city, but said she did not seek to stop the program but wanted the inmates to be clearly identified by attire to make the public aware that inmate labor was being used.
"There is no basis or evidence that [Cindy Moore's] comments were racial and no comments about Mr. Beasley being an inmate, and no evidence that she equates inmate status with race," Blankenship said.
Attorney asks for removal from office
Steve Megerle, attorney for Beasley, said his client did not come forward at first because he feared retaliation in the form of losing his city contract. "This was traumatic for him. He feels degraded by a person who has significant authority in Cold Spring."
The lawyer alleges the incident was part of a pattern of behavior that spoke to the "capacity and character of Moore to hold public office," he said.
The attorney is referring to signed letters that accompanied Beasley’s initial complaint from Public Works Director Ron Hitch and two members of his staff, outlining concerns about Moore’s behavior toward the inmates from the county program. They described previous incidents where Moore followed and questioned inmates from the program while they were doing city work.
"We think Moore should do the right thing and apologize and resign," said Megerle. "This racially charged incident was an unprovoked attack on a respected member of the Cold Spring team...She is unfit to hold office in 2020 and is an embarrassment to the city of Cold Spring."
He is asking that the city of Cold Spring remove Moore from office, if she does not comply. If the city fails to act, he said, "We will take all legal action necessary and appropriate to compensate Mr. Beasley for the damages he suffered from this inappropriate behavior."
According to Kentucky law, an elected official can be removed from office by unanimous vote of all members (except the official) and under specific circumstances such as misconduct, incapacity or willful neglect of duties. The official has the right to a public hearing and, if the vote is for removal, that person has the right of appeal through the Circuit Court.
No love lost
Since first taking office last year, there has been tension between Moore, the mayor, other members of council and city staff. She has been vocal about her concerns over use of funds in the city, filing several requests for information about spending practices.
Moore also was openly critical of an April decision by council to increase pay for the next incoming council members and mayor. The new council, to be elected in 2022, would receive an additional $400 per year and the new mayor, elected in 2023, would receive an increase in salary from $6,500 to $10,000 per year.
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On May 1, the mayor posted a response to her concerns directly on the Cold Spring city Facebook page, saying she had been making false accusations in a private Facebook group. He explained that the increase would not go into effect until the next mayor is elected in 2023.
He also said Moore had stated that city money was used to pay for his meals and activities as a member of the Metropolitan Club, a business and community based club in Covington. The mayor said these expenses were paid for by himself and urged Moore to look at a recent auditor's report on city business.
Moore has filed as a candidate for re-election in the upcoming election in November.