City council voices concerns on city tourism board issues

Photo by Nita Johnson

City council member Kelly Greene reads from the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) regarding the discrepancies in appointments to the city tourism commission during a special-called meeting of the London City Council on Monday afternoon. To the left of Greene is Councilman Daniel Carmack, to the right is Councilman Kip Jervis.

The confusion surrounding appointments to the city tourism board prompted a special-called meeting of the London City Council on Monday afternoon.

Although City Attorney Larry Bryson said the council has no decision making concerning the tourism board, its appointments or its functions, council members said they were receiving calls from the citizens they represent and wanted answers to their questions.

Those questions brought various discussions among council members, London Mayor Troy Rudder, Bryson and city tourism board members present for the meeting, with Rudder stating he would meet with the hotel association president regarding the appointments in question. Specifically, those seats filled by Troy House and Steve Berry have been replaced by Phil Smith and Kelly Greene.

Greene said she was concerned that the appointment she received was not legitimate because the schedule of terms is off.

"I would love to serve on that commission but right now moving forward, it's kind of hard because the calendar that they produced that shows a list of the original people and who they were for and the last year they came up," she explained. "Last year in 2020, they had - the hotel - three people come due and that was (Lois McWhorter, Troy House and Steve Berry), which is not matching the city records."

This error was discovered that the board appointments were out of alignment with the original appointment terms. Douglas Phelps addressed the city tourism board regarding those appointments, showing a graph of how the appointments should fall for renewal. Following that graph, House's appointment was renewed in November 2020, and he received a letter on City of London letterhead, signed by Rudder, that his term had been renewed for a three-year period. However, in July 2021, House received another letter from Rudder, stating that his term had expired, thanking him for his service. Phil Smith was then chosen to fill House's seat.

The other questionable appointment is that of city tourism chairman Steve Berry. According to city records, Berry's term expires this year. But according to the graph that Phelps showed, Berry's term expired in 2020. Greene pointed out that state statutes overseeing tourism boards stated that if a board member's term expired and that member did not receive notification of expiration or renewal within 30 to 60 days, the reappointment was automatic for an additional three-year term. However, Rudder appointed Greene to fill Berry's seat on the board on the belief that Berry's term was up this year.

The error in term expirations came as board members have come and gone since the tourism commission was established in 2013, the terms have been set on the date of the appointment rather than to fill the remainder of the term. And under the current appointment schedule, all three seats for the hotel industry were expiring in 2021.

Bryson and Rudder argued that point, with Bryson stating he had not researched that issue and had not attended recent tourism meetings. The day after the city tourism commission voted to become compliant with SPGE, Bryson submitted his resignation as attorney for the commission.

"I haven't been at the tourism commission meetings," he said. "All I know is what I read in the paper."

Greene said she did not believe the errors occurred intentionally but that it needed to be fixed.

The five council members present for the meeting said they wanted the meeting to address their concerns to Rudder, who - under state statutes - makes board appointments based on recommendations from the four agencies represented. However, when asked who contacts those agencies when an appointment is expiring, Rudder said he did so. But later in the discussion, Rudder said it was the responsibility of those agencies sending representatives to the board to know the term expiration dates.

Councilman Danny Phelps said he was on city council when the city tourism commission was established and was familiar with the staggered terms of the tourism commission members. Rudder said over the years that some people left the board, requiring another appointment. But he said the organization represented submitted new names to fill the spot.

"We didn't appoint people to serve out someone else's term because the KRS doesn't call for that. Neither does our ordinance, actually," Rudder said. "So the person that came in got a three-year term."

Councilman Daniel Carmack questioned that, stating that when a seat is vacated, the new appointee should complete the remainder of that term, rather than start a new date of service.

"This is the first time I've ever heard anything in government that gives a whole new term to someone when they're filling a vacancy," Carmack said. "The vacancy is the term and the seat has a time. Even here, if we step off before our term, someone fills the term until the next election. Even the Chamber does that. There's a four year term. If they step off two years into their term, they don't put someone else on for a four year term - they fill the remainder of the term which is two years. I've never heard of it working this way."

Councilman Kip Jervis said the main point of the meeting was to be in compliance with the laws, and he hoped the issue would be resolved - soon.

The council also heard from City of London Tourism Commission Executive Director Chris Robinson, as well as board members Starr Handy and Mike Holt, who attended the meeting.

Bryson restated that the city council had no power over the appointments, with Carmack responding that the council was being asked questions and they needed to know the answers. He then asked Bryson who could straighten out the discrepancies, with Bryson responding, "The Mayor."

After nearly 90 minutes of discussion, Rudder said he would contact the president of the Hotel/Motel Association to discuss the issue.

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