By Rob McDaniel
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
In a interview at city hall Friday, London Mayor Troy Rudder said he stands by his claim the city is not in violation of ethics policies in regards to a business relationship with London Radio Service Inc., owned by London Police Chief Stewart Walker.
According to a report by WLEX 18, since 2009, as far back as records have been kept, the city has purchased more than $90,000 worth of radio equipment from Walker’s business, while also paying his salary as a lieutenant and, later, chief.
London Radio Service Inc., which sells and services radios and equipment to the London fire department, police department and rescue squad, has no store front. According to secretary of state records, the principal office is a P.O. Box.
Rudder said the business relationship between the city and London Radio Service Inc. does not violate city ethics policies.
The city’s policy prohibits city employees from using or attempting to use “their official position to secure unwarranted privileges or advantages for themselves or others.” It also states employees cannot act in a financial matter “that might reasonably be expected to impair their objectivity or independence of judgment.”
Furthermore, Rudder said, the relationship doesn’t violate state ethics policy.
“Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) 61.252 says it’s not a violation of ethics policy if the contract was ‘entered into before an elected officer filed as a candidate for city office, before an appointed officer was appointed to the office, or before an employee was hired by the city or city agency,’” Rudder said.
Walker confirmed he has been a city employee since 1996, but his company has been in business since 1983.
“I became an official dealer in 1992 and have been honoring government prices ever since,” Walker said.
Walker also stated he complies with ethics policy by disclosing his interest in a business annually.
“I fill out the required disclosure forms to show my relationship with the city; I do it yearly,” Walker continued. “It’s no secret that I provide well established services in multiple cities and counties. I’ve been doing it for close to 30 years, much longer than I have worked for the city.”
Walker was named as chief of police in December 2010, replacing retired Chief Elijah Hollon. He joined the police force in 1996 and worked up through the ranks.
The WLEX report stated since mid-2011, the city has purchased $16,846 worth of equipment, including radios, batteries, antennas, as well as service and repairs. The largest of those purchases, totaling $12,000, were for new radios in nine new police cruisers, Walker said.
KRS 424.260 requires cities making a contract, lease, or other agreement for the purchase of materials, supplies, equipment, or nonprofessional services for an amount exceeding $20,000 to first advertise for bids pursuant to KRS 424.130. However, no one purchase exceeded $20,000, and the city did not solicit bids from other potential suppliers.
Instead, Mayor Rudder said the city utilized the “state bid list.” London Radio Service Inc. was officially added to the state contract price list in 2001.
“What people don’t understand is that if something is on the state bid list, we don’t have to open bidding,” Rudder said. “The state has already advertised for those bids and made a state bid list.”
Walker noted neither he nor any other department chief has any control over city purchases; those decisions are made by the mayor and city council.
According to WLEX, State Auditor Adam Edelen said his office plans to take a look at the arrangement to find out if it violates state or local ethics regulations.
“My staff right now is at the point of gathering information about it to determine when or if we will launch a full-scale examination,” Edelen said.
Rudder said he, Walker and City Attorney Larry Bryson will meet today (Monday) to determine if they are in legal and ethical compliance with local and state policies.
“We have tried to do everything by the law and by what’s right for this city,” Rudder said. “We will review the information needed to make a timely, but accurate, response to the questions that were asked by LEX 18. If there is any shortcoming in compliance with any legal requirement, we will correct those shortcomings. However, at this time we are not aware of any.”