City approves to accept cemetery ownership with stipulations
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Councilwoman Beverly Ford made a motion in the Nov. 8 Cave City Council meeting to change the city’s form of government from a Mayor-Council to a Commission. Ford’s unexpected item was not listed on the evening’s agenda.
The motion passed 3-2, but not before a lengthy conversation with confusion surrounding the matter.
Cave City has the Mayor-Council form of government and according to the Kentucky League of Cities (KLC) website, such is defined as:
“The mayor-council plan incorporates a clear separation of powers between the executive branch (the mayor) and the legislative branch (the council). The city council may: enact ordinances; levy taxes [;] adopt a budget; and set compensation, in addition to other legislative duties. The mayor serves as the chief executive and administrative officer of the city and oversees the management of the city’s daily affairs. He or she serves no legislative function and may only vote in order to break a tie, unless such a tie-breaking vote is prohibited by a specific statute.”
Ford was forthcoming with her reasons for requesting this change often throughout the discussion. She said she had been “enlightened” after attending an Economic Development for Kentucky Conference and she began to research and contact individuals about the Commission form of government before presenting this to the council.
According to the KLC website, a Commission government is defined as:
“The commission plan consists of a mayor and four elected city commissioners who together comprise the city commission. The members of this commission share legislative, executive, and administrative authority in the city. Thus, the commission plan does not have the strict separation of powers of the mayor-council plan. The mayor acts as a voting member of the commission, with only limited responsibilities and authorities as mayor, such as presiding at commission meetings and executing contracts. Although the ultimate authority is vested in the city commission as a body, requires that administrative functions of the city be separated into departments by ordinance. Each of these departments is placed under the supervision of one of the city commissioners, unless the commission has created the office of city administrative officer. The commission as a whole is free to override any action taken by a commissioner overseeing a department. If there is a city administrative officer, that person may be delegated the supervisory authority over the departments.”
“I was informed we need to do a resolution and if the council passes it, then we have a reading on this for the public to come and voice their opinion and move forward,” Ford said, “So tonight I’m asking to be able to make that motion, to look at that form of government.”
One of the councilmen asked to hear from City Attorney Bobby Richardson. Richardson said it was of his “humble opinion” that it isn’t a good way to run city government.
“What you do is divide up the departments between members of the council and they run that department,” Richardson said, “They’ll run the police department, they’ll run the fire department.” He added it causes a lot of confusion and lack of responsibilities.
Clarification was sought at least three times before a vote took place, once by Councilwoman Leticia Cline and twice by Cave City Mayor Dwayne Hatcher.
The mayor did ask before the vote for Ford to restate her motion, to which Ford replied, “That we consider going to a Mayor-Commissioner form of government versus a Mayor-Council form of government.”
“We’re just sitting ducks”
Ford said, at one point, “as a councilperson…we’re just sitting ducks.”
She later added that there would be “no way” she would run again as a “sitting duck on the council” citing councilmembers were not included in making decisions for the city.
Mayor Hatcher addressed the decision-making comments from Ford stating, “Any major decisions, we have to go by the job [descriptions] of the mayor and councilperson—every decision that is made is a council vote.”
But Ford disagreed with the mayor.
Ford elaborated on her reasons in addition to decision-making for bringing the item to the council both before and after the vote.
She said to move the city forward, “Younger people who are not set in their ways who are interested in this city…We should welcome the younger generation, it’s time to let them run this city.”
Both the mayor and city attorney expressed confusion regarding Ford’s original motion after the vote, explaining they were under the understanding the vote would be to “look into” and have a public hearing over the matter.
Ford disagreed and said her motion was to actually have a resolution created by the city attorney that would actually change the form of government to the mayor-commission form.
Her original motion is stated as presented in the above text, in which she undeniably stated the motion was “to look at that form of government” and later used the word “consider” in a clarification request.
City Attorney Richardson said he was uncertain, without further research, that a sole resolution could change the form of a city’s government.
Ford said this change would affect the upcoming elections of 2022 in regards to candidates running for positions. Ford also said she was told that changing the city’s form of government would not need to be presented on a ballot for the citizens of Cave City.
“They don’t have a choice.”
Ford said she was told the council must pass the resolution before the conversation takes place to allow the citizens of Cave City to voice their opinions.
However, Mayor Hatcher said, “But if we’ve already sit here and according to what we just said, they don’t have a choice—we just made a motion to approve it.”
Ford said her “direction from KLC was that we put it to the floor for a council vote then you would switch to that type of government provided, when the people of Cave City…[line] up in here saying ‘we don’t want that form of government, we want to stay the way we are’…they have a right to do that.”
“And then we would have to relook at that, but right now, the way it stands, we don’t have to relook at it,” Ford said, implying the evening’s vote had already established the move to form a new type of city government regardless of any future expressions of opinion from the citizens of Cave City.
Mayor Hatcher asked Ford, “How do you guarantee that this is going to move Cave City forward?”
“I can’t guarantee anything,” Ford concluded.
Those who voted against changing Cave City’s government to a Commission plan: Councilmen Denny Doyle and Kevin Houchens. Councilmembers who voted in favor: Leticia Cline, Steve Pedigo, and Beverly Ford. Absent from the meeting was Mike Houchens.
Councilmembers voted (4-0) to accept ownership, operating, and maintenance of the Cave City Cemetery beginning 1/1/2022. However, the motion did specify that during the transition requirements of all financial records are in order and unpaid purchases are substantiated. It is expected the council will set up a foundation and board between now and Jan 1.
Those who were in favor: Councilmembers Steve Pedigo, Cline, Kevin Houchens, and Denny Doyle. Councilwoman Ford left the room as soon as the cemetery item began, returning after the vote had finished.