LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — The alleged mishandling of taxpayer dollars, spelled out in the state audit, has led to calls for City of London Mayor Troy Rudder and City Attorney Larry Bryson to resign.
Findings in state auditor Mike Harmon's report, which examined "financial management activity" of the City of London and the City of London Tourism and Convention Commission from July 2019 to June 2021, reveal alleged problems so bad, that some are being referred to the local ethics board.
Compounding the "troubling" situation, Harmon said the city's ethics board has not met in nearly 10 years.
"In layman’s terms, the tourism commission did not have proper oversight on how their public dollars were being utilized, but instead decisions were being made by the city,” Auditor Harmon summarized.
One finding shows the mayor's stepdaughter was hired at a higher pay grade than what was established by the ordinance.
The audit also shows of the 202 current and former London employees, elected officials, and commission members examined, 50 had some sort of familial relationship with at least one other person within the city. That's almost 25%.
Another showed a $45,000 payment was approved for a concert without a written contract, and the concert did not happen. It reports those funds had not been reimbursed as of February 23, 2022.
"I am asking for you to consider resigning," London councilmember Kelly Smith-Greene said to Mayor Troy Rudder in a special meeting on April 7 that was held after the report came out.
On Monday, Green told LEX18 in a phone conversation that the audit was "embarrassing" and "disappointing". She has also called for Bryson's resignation because he "did not advise our mayor correctly or even advise him and he didn't show good stewardship in the spending of taxpayer money".
"Larry should consider resigning," London councilmember Daniel Carmack said about City Attorney Larry Bryson in the same April 7 meeting. Carmack confirmed to LEX18 Monday he is also seeking the Mayor's resignation.
Meanwhile, Rudder has released a statement which said, in part, "Most of the alleged deficiencies have been corrected". It continued, saying, "I will continue to work with the State Auditor's Office and will be providing a full Corrective Action plan within the next 60 days."
Read the statement in full below:
City attorney Larry Bryson said he would like an opportunity to address his side of everything.
I cannot speak for the Mayor, but I will be addressing my side of this to the Council as soon as they give me the opportunity.
Nothing was on the Special Called Meeting (April 7) agenda (signed and called by Councilpersons Green and Carmack and two others) about firing me or asking for my resignation and neither Green nor Carmack made any effort to discuss the Audit report with me or ask any questions before calling for my resignation. We had our regular Council meeting on Monday evening (April 4) and both Carmack and Green knew of the Audit Report at that time, but never mentioned it during the entire Monday meeting. On Thursday evening at the Special Council meeting, Councilperson Danny Phelps and Judd Weaver asked that I be given the opportunity to speak before Green and Carmack fired me. I had surgery on Wednesday and could not attend the Special Council meeting on Thursday and Councilpersons Green and Carmack knew this. They wanted to fire me while I was not there and they certainly did not want to give me the opportunity to speak.
I have served three London mayors and several city councils and I have never been treated this way by any of those in the past.
I have a lot more to say but it is best to address it to the Council and Mayor in public and at a public meeting. Assuming Green and Carmack give me the opportunity to speak before they fire me.
Larry G. Bryson
(For now) London City Attorney"
Green responded to a few of Bryson's comments in a phone call with LEX18.
She said asking Rudder and Bryson to resign was part of the corrective action plan, which was on the agenda for the special meeting.
She also said she did not receive the audit until after Monday's council meeting. However, she confirmed she did not speak to Bryson prior to Thursday's special meeting. She said the reason for that was because he didn't let the Council know the audit was back and offer it for them to read.
She also denied knowing Bryson was recovering from surgery. She said she only knew he would not be attending the special meeting.
Councilmembers Green and Carmack said they're in the process of planning a special meeting soon where both Rudder and Bryson will be given the opportunity to resign, and if they don't, the Council would hold a vote of no confidence for the Mayor and a vote to terminate the City Attorney.