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Council tending to details of mayor’s removal hearing

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By Forrest Berkshire, Editor

The Bardstown City Council spent Tuesday night’s working session attending to details of the hearing scheduled for next week that could potentially remove from office Mayor John Royalty, who did not attend.

Two more lawyers were added to the mix.

Doughlas M. “Dodie” George, a retired circuit court judge from Lebanon, was approved as the hearing officer for Wednesday’s hearing.

The council also approved hiring former City Attorney Bruce Reynolds to represent the city in the event Royalty’s attorneys file any motions seeking to delay the hearing.

“He’s very familiar with the issues going on, so if something happens quickly, he won’t have to get up to speed,” Councilman John Kelley, a former county attorney, said of Reynolds when making the recommendation.

“Hopefully it’s not necessary,” Kelley said of hiring Reynolds, but recommended it as a cautionary measure.

Jason Floyd, Royalty’s attorney, has said two weeks is not enough time to adequately prepare for a defense. Kelley intimated during Tuesday’s meeting Floyd might file to delay the hearing. The mayor filed suit the next day.

The City Council’s investigator, Lexington lawyer Scott Crosbie, reported the findings of a nearly three-month investigation at a March 28 council meeting. The council, after a closed session discussion that evening, approved moving forward with the hearing that could potentially remove Royalty from office based on the investigation’s allegations and scheduled the hearing for April 12.

Kelley has said he thinks the council is good legally on its timing, pointing out it is in line with the legal requirements for hearings to remove a police officer and similar to past removal proceedings in other cities.

George was the hearing officer who presided over the ouster of former Hodgenville Mayor Terry Cruse in 2014.

In that instance, Cruse had been indicted on charges that he had misspent city funds for personal gain.

The Hodgenville City Council approved a hearing to consider Cruse’s removal April 14, 2014, and scheduled the hearing for May 1 that year, according to The LaRue County Herald. In that instance, Cruse’s attorney also objected to the time between the presentation of findings and the removal hearing, and unsuccessfully attempted to have it delayed by the court. The removal hearing of Cruse took two sessions, and he was removed by unanimous vote on May 15, 2014.

During his removal, Cruse invoked his right not to testify because of his pending criminal charges. Royalty does not face any criminal charges at this time, although Crosbie’s report outlined several laws investigators say Royalty’s actions potentially violated. The council has the option following Wednesday’s hearing to also recommend forwarding its findings to law enforcement agencies for further investigation.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the council also passed a municipal order empowering Crosbie and Floyd to notify by email any city employee requiring their attendance and testimony at the removal hearing. Any employee required to attend the hearing will be paid their normal rate for their time.

Members also took care of other details related to the hearing, including squaring away the notice for the special called meeting and setting the time for 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Nelson County Justice Center in District Court Room B.