Report alleges racial animosity between mayor, council members

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By Forrest Berkshire, Editor

City Council members and former city workers told investigators Bardstown Mayor John Royalty had a history of vindictiveness and using racial slurs, and singled out three black City Council members for special nicknames.

Former Fire Chief Marlin Howard, who was fired by Royalty, said he had “heard Mayor Royalty speak in a derogatory way about African-Americans including using the N word,” according to the investigation’s findings released Tuesday night.

Howard also said Royalty created nicknames for some of council members. “Keke” was Kecia Copeland. “Lele” was Francis Lydian, a former councilman. “Roro” was Roland “Coach Roe” Williams.

Mike Abell, the city’s former chief financial officer, said Royalty especially had issues with Copeland, describing the mayor’s “behavior as animosity and vindictiveness.” He gave as an example one time when Royalty ordered her utilities shut off because he mistakenly thought she was late on her payment.

Copeland’s relationship with Royalty soured after the mayor skipped Bardstown’s Martin Luther King Day celebration in January 2015, during his first month in office.

Afterward, according to lead investigator Scott Crosbie’s report, Royalty made remarks which Copeland perceived as racially tinged and offensive.

In the past, it had been customary for the mayor of Bardstown to attend the annual celebration at St. Monica Catholic Church, and when Royalty, the new mayor, wasn’t there on Jan. 19, he offered an explanation that appeared to “diminish its importance,” the report said.

Copeland demanded a meeting with the mayor about his absence and other issues, and he “responded with a racially charged anecdote” that offended Copeland, the report said.

Reporter Randy Patrick contributed to this article.