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Contentious council

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Mayor bangs gavel, asks police to escort councilman out after he asks question

By Laura Hagan

Monday night’s meeting of the La Grange City Council ended quickly, after residents watched a council member attempt to ask a question and the mayor answered by banging her gavel and asking a police officer to escort him out.

Mayor Elsie Carter began the meeting with a statement about the nomination of Graham Whatley for the position of city attorney, an ongoing issue since she nominated Whatley to fill the position in September.

When Carter finished her statement, council member Jason Taylor attempted to ask a question, but Carter started banging the gavel and calling Taylor “out of order.” As Taylor told her he’d like to ask a question, Carter asked a police officer in attendance to escort him out of the courtroom.

Some in attendance at the meeting voiced concerns when Carter told Taylor to leave. Taylor left on his own, and said he plans to file an injunction against Whatley.

As he left, four other council members – Tad Humble, Deborah Pollard, Joe Davenport and Jean Knight followed.

When only Faith Brush and Wally Nay remained in the meeting – council member Lucy Ricketts was absent – the meeting lacked quorum, forcing Carter to adjourn.

Several residents attended Monday night’s meeting – many to take part in a public hearing for a proposed zoning revision. The council discussed no other old or new business before the meeting adjourned.

Carter nominated Whatley to fill the vacant city attorney seat Sept. 2. Whatley’s approval came with a stipulation by the council that he separate himself from a case against the Oldham County PVA.

Though Whatley sat with the council at the beginning of the Oct. 6 council meeting, He still hadn’t separated himself from the suit, and council members asked him to step down for that reason.

Carter said the actions of the council Oct. 6 violated ordinances concerning powers of the mayor. She said council members don’t have the power to reject the nomination.

Effective Monday, Whatley is no longer involved in the PVA lawsuit, Carter said, and she received a signed order documenting that fact. She said Whatley has been sworn and has the power to act as city attorney.

On Oct. 22, Whatley wrote a letter to a resident concerning city business on letterhead listing him as city attorney (appointed).

Carter said Monday only the mayor has the power to remove officers – such as Whatley – and said the position is supported by an attorney general’s opinion.

After the meeting, Carter said she has no comment about the situation, but did say the council doesn’t have the right to rescind a decision after an official is approved.

Taylor said he is shocked at what happened during the meeting and plans to file an injunction against Whatley to prevent him from handling city business.

He cited a Kentucky Revised Statute that said the city attorney has to have city council’s approval.

Since the council rejected the approval last month, he said Whatley would have just needed to be re-nominated at Monday’s meeting — since he has removed himself from the lawsuit — and the council could have voted whether or not to approve him for the position.

E-mail us about this story at: lhagan@oldhamera.com.