By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
In a unanimous vote, all Barbourville City Council members voted Thursday to hold a special open hearing to discuss removing Mayor David Thompson from office.
The hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall and is open to the public.
The action involves 11 of the 28 findings from an audit of the city released by Auditor Adam Edelen in January. It began last summer, after five of six city council members sent a letter to Edelen’s office in March requesting the audit.
In a letter dated Thursday and read toward the end of the council’s regular meeting, council members cited two state statutes involving misconduct and conflict of interest and asked for the mayor’s resignation.
The letter was signed by council members Wilma Barnes, Janet Hyde, Sherman Lawson, Ronnie Moore, Darren West and Gary Williams.
After the letter was read, Thompson told the council, “I have no response, except I don’t intend any mudslinging.”
Lawson asked Thompson about resigning, saying, “Do we have a reply on that or not?”
“No, I don’t have a reply. I’m not resigning,” Thompson said.
“I’ve been on the council 14 years at the end of this term. And we’ve been able to balance the budget until this year. But this year, it’s in worse shape than I’ve ever seen it,” added Barnes.
West made a motion to hold the special open hearing. It was seconded by Moore.
West, Moore, Lawson, Barnes and Hyde all voted in favor of the motion.
After the vote, the meeting was adjourned. Shortly afterwards, Thompson left the council chambers.
Lawson explained Tuesday’s special open hearing works the same as an impeachment.
“All six council members have to vote on it, and the vote has to be unanimous. It was one of the audit’s findings that made us do it. Whenever we went to looking at the money, it caught the attention of the Finance Committee in January or February of 2013. The numbers weren’t adding up to what we expected. If the money’s not there, you can’t spend it,” he noted.
Lawson pointed out that at the time, the Finance Committee was made up of Williams, Barnes and Council Member Gerald Hyde. Hyde passed away later that year, and was succeeded by his wife, Janet Hyde.
Currently, Lawson, Barnes and Janet Hyde serve on the Finance Committee.
West said Tuesday’s hearing will be an open, court-type session.
“What this amounts to is the mayor needs to go. Basically, the mayor is on trial. He needs to convince the council that he needs to stay. In his audit, Adam Edelen said the City Council needs to restore trust back to the residents of the city. This is the step the council is taking,” he commented.
When contacted Thursday night after the meeting, Thompson said, “This started after the last election in November 2012, when West, Lawson and Moore were elected. We were moving forward, and have for the past six years because we had six good council members who got things done and worked together. We completed many projects in the city, and worked with every organization in the city and county in order to do this. We’ve had many good people donate their time on boards and committees that the city has partnered with. This is the only way things get done in a community. The forward movement stopped a year ago, and we have absolutely done nothing positive in a little over the last year. Lately, many people have joked that our City Council has turned into a circus. And we were elected to do things for the public. The charges presented to me by Mr. West were nothing more than the audit findings presented to the city 60 days ago. The city has worked with each individual board department to put policies in place to correct findings as the auditors had suggested. These were all corrected within 30 days. We have heard nothing back from the Attorney General’s Office or the ethics board. My salary as Mayor is $1,000 a month, and after cuts, it’s just a little over $800 a month, and I’m on call 24 hours a day. City Council Members make $100 a month, and that’s generally for one hour a month at council meetings in the past. That works out into $100 an hour. Divide my just over $800 a month into 24 hours a day and over the days I work over a month, day or night, and see what I make for what I’m having to do now. It’s easy to tell that money isn’t a factor in my motivation as Mayor.”