October 10, 2013

City bids radio service

City Attorney asks state ethics board to review for compliance

By Rob McDaniel
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The London City Council met Monday night to address concerns of unethical practices between the city and London Radio Service Inc.

During the meeting, City Attorney Larry Bryson addressed the council with ethical concerns brought to light by open records by WLEX and the Sentinel-Echo.

“This relationship between London Radio Service and the City has existed before (Chief) Stewart (Walker) was an employee of the city,” Bryson said.  “So it’s a relationship that has existed for many years.  But after the ethics policy was passed, certain requirements were made.  Stewart, I understand, as any employee or officer of the city is required to, has filed a disclosure so there’s been no concealment of this relationship.”

Bryson explained that the WLEX reporter didn't question the payments to London Radio Service Inc., but rather the ethics of the relationship.

London Radio Service is currently on the state bid list. Bryson stated by purchasing from the state bid list, it allows the city to purchase bulk items at a lower price.

“By doing that, there’s some assurance, because of the large volume, they can get the best bid. This is not unusual.  A lot of school districts go off the state bid list or coops they participate in,” he said.

Bryson noted the relationship between the city pre-existed Walker becoming chief of police, and was awarded after competitive bidding through the state bid list.

However, Bryson feels that perhaps legally the city should bid the equipment in order to assure the public that the city is acting in their best interest.

“After looking at this, I think this is something that’s been an oversight,” he continued.

As suggested by Bryson, the relationship between the city and London Radio Service and Walker’s personal interest in the contract was publicly disclosed and noted in the meeting minutes. 

Bryson went on to recommend that if there are any other city employees that do business with the city, the council determine who they are and make these findings available for the public.

In light of the WLEX investigation, Bryson has also suggested that addition checks-and-balances be put into place when ordering radios or other equipment.

“There are (now) other safe guards the mayor has put in place,” Bryson said.  “There’s another person who is reviewing any requests for radios or radio repairs who is not a member of the police department." This person, he continued, works directly under the authority of the mayor, and not under the authority of the chief of police.

When the police department seizes any property or money following an arrest, that money can be used to purchase radio equipment.  Per the new policies, these seized funds must be kept separate from the city's general fund. 

“If any of those monies are used to purchase radios, radio repairs or radio equipment, it requires two signatures by the city clerk before those checks can be wrote out.”

Bryson has also contacted the state ethics board so they could review the relationship between the city and London Radio Service, past city transactions between the two, and make any suggestions for future compliance.

Bryson went on to suggest that the council accept bids for radio antenna rentals.  He said, if London Radio Service is the best service in the area, they will continue to do business with Walker while observing the policies outlined by city and state ethics policies.

Council Member Danny Phelps asked about the number of towers that needed to be rented.

Mayor Troy Rudder answered Phelps, stating that “the city will have to rent three radio antennas on a radio tower.  One antenna will be used for police services and two will be used for fire and emergency services.  We’ll be renting antennas, not towers.”

Council Member Nancy Vaughn expressed her concern that renting antennas from an unknown tower would impede current available radio services that officers have grown accustom to and put first responders in danger.

The board then took a vote and agreed to a proposal for renting three radio antennas.

The board also voted to pass an ordinance setting the 2013 – 2014 motor vehicle and watercraft property tax rate and the 2013 – 2014 property tax rate, the council revealed that motor vehicle and watercraft tax rates will decrease from .0968 cents to .089 cents on $100 and property tax will decrease from .090 to .089 on ever $100.

Also discussed:

The council approved a Playground Theatre 5K run on Nov. 9 at 5 p.m.

Ed Manning, Sherrell Hall, Bruce Yandell, Charlotte Anders, Ed Sibert, Debbie Prewitt and Bill Dezarn were re-appointed to the Zoning Adjustment Board for a four-year term.

Darrell House was re-appointed to the Housing Authority Board.

The council passed ordinances rezoning property owned by James Robert Connor and Mary Louise Connor located at 605 Whitley Street and 611 Whitley streets in London.