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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Campbell School Board Raises Issues With City Meetings on DAV; Council Meets to Discuss

The city of Cold Spring is holding a meeting to further discuss issues surrounding the development of the former Disabled American Veterans property.

 by Robin Gee, city council beat editor

In the ongoing tussle between Campbell County School Board members and Cold Spring city officials over development of the former Disabled American Veterans (DAV) property in Cold Spring, the school board has accused the city of violations of the Kentucky Open Meetings Act.

RELATED: Cold Spring Council Approves Move to Purchase DAV Property

In a letter sent to the city, the board said special meetings called by the city on December 17 and 30, 2020, did not follow the law concerning public input with regard to executive sessions and the meetings around them. The school board identified what it said were irregularities with the process and demanded all decisions and actions taken at those meetings be rescinded by the city within three business days or face further action.

 The school board's complaint

Fort Thomas Matters filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the school board’s letter outlining their issues with the city meetings. The complaint lists out issues with the way the meetings were presented and advertised, including conflicts between meeting announcements and the agenda, a lack of clear information on how the public could view and participate in the meetings, as well as actions taken at the meeting that were not shared with the public on the agenda.

In conclusion, the complaint on the December 17 meeting stated, the city "a) met without allowing any capacity for the public to attend or observe the video conference; b) purported to take action (voting to authorize the mayor and city attorney to negotiate with DAV for purchase of the DAV property) without that action being on the agenda; and c) live streamed only a portion of the meeting, which did not include convening the meeting, invoking the executive session or adjourning after the executive session."

The complaint about the December 30 meeting includes similar issues with notice to the public and live streaming. The board also claims in that meeting, the city moved to file legal action against the board, without including it on the agenda.

The school board letter threatens legal action if the city does not take certain remedies including rescinding decisions made at those meetings and a demand that the city adopt methods by which the public can observe video conference meetings in real time, adopt policies that ensure citizens can attend or observe meetings and that meeting agendas clearly state all action items planned.

The city attorney's response

Since receiving the letter, the city has announced it will hold a special meeting at 7:30 tonight, Wednesday, January 13.

"We do not agree with the school board. They continue to assert a lack of transparency when we have been very transparent. But to appease them, at a significant cost to the city, we are meeting in person," said Cold Spring city attorney Brandon Voelker.

He went on to note that the city has struggled with some technical issues since the decision to have meetings on Zoom and carry them live on Facebook. That decision was made to keep council members, staff and the public safe, Voelker added. Without a full-time IT staff, the city manager and clerk have tried to handle meeting live streaming but have run into difficulties, he said.

There have been some glitches. Some of the meeting videos did not load properly. Yet, he said, "Using the technology issues to assert false accusations against us is disingenuous on the part of the district."

Voelker said the city will no longer attempt to stream the meetings on Facebook; instead all meetings will be live and open to the public at the city building. "Now, due to the school district, we will have all live meetings putting everyone’s safety at risk."

He insists the board’s assertions that the city has not been open about its decisions is untrue, "If this was truly about transparency, I encourage anyone to look at what Cold Spring has put out versus what the school board has put out...I do hope the board members come to the meeting and make public comment."

He noted the meeting this evening will treat the topic of the DAV property as a new issue. On the agenda is an executive session, which will be conducted "regarding current threats of litigation, action to pursue legal action and intervene in legal proceedings, regarding the Disabled American Veterans property and any entities asserting an interest therein, including but not limited to the Campbell County Board of Education and/or its employees/agents."

The agenda also includes notice that a "possible action taken on executive session acquisition of property."  

The meeting will be held in the Cold Spring City Building, 5694 East Alexandria Pike, Cold Spring, KY 41076.

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