Mayor says he defers to HR director, but went against his advice for Trailergate

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By Forrest Berkshire, Editor

When it comes to personnel decisions, Bardstown Mayor John Royalty said he defers to his human resources director.

But when the city employee in question was his personal friend whom he had recently promoted to police captain and interim chief, he went against that advice.

In a December deposition for a wrongful termination and defamation lawsuit brought by fired police Capt. Tom Roby, Royalty distanced himself from the decision to terminate the 20-plus year veteran of the force. He said he signed off on the recommendation of Human Resources Director Larry Green and City Attorney Tim Butler.

“Is it your testimony you here today under oath that you just simply do whatever Mr. Green tells you to do” asked Keith Sparks, Roby’s attorney.

“I follow the direction of Mr. Green and Mr. Tim Butler,” Royalty replied.

Royalty said he was advised to step away from the investigation into allegations that Roby had destroyed city police files while he cleaned out his office before his retirement. Royalty demoted Roby in April to make way for his personal friend, McKenzie Mattingly, and signed off on Roby’s termination May 31.

Royalty reiterated that he follows the advice of Green at least four more times in discussing Roby’s firing.

But in September, Royalty went against his human resources director’s advice when Mattingly, who by then was interim police chief, was spotted using a stolen trailer for personal use. The trailer had been reported stolen to the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office more than a month earlier, but had been recovered by the police department at a scene alongside several other items believed stolen.

After the incident was reported by the man who owned the trailer on Facebook and reported by local media, the incident became knows as “Trailergate” and spurred an outcry for some to have Mattingly punished and at least one city council member call for his termination.

“I just heard he used a trailer which was no different than any other officers out there that had been using trailers,” Royalty said. “And after that incident, I talked with him and verbally reprimanded him.”

Royalty maintained there was no policy against using recovered property at the time, which has been disputed by the former police chief.

“I called McKenzie to the office, and we had a chat about it, and I said, ‘Well, I’m gonna, you know, you should have known better.’ And then after talking to different officers, everybody has used that trailer, not just him, but it’s been out there for 45 or 50 days. There was others that used that trailer. He just got caught with it. Is it right? No. So I verbally reprimanded him and then made a directive that no one and then he kind of I think McKenzie made up a little policy that no one is to use anything,” Royalty said.

But when he was questioned about Trailergate during his deposition the day after Royalty’s, Green said Mattingly should have received a written reprimand.

Green testified that he recommended Mattingly be issued a written reprimand.

“I said that was the sort of thing we should look into, and if it was true, he should be reprimanded for it. But it wasn’t that serious of a transgression. But that to be fair we ought to look into it, and he should be written up for it,” Green said.