NEW INFO: Paintsville Mayor Target of City Council Probe

By: Randy Yohe Email
By: Randy Yohe Email

UPDATE 7/12/12 @ 5:20 p.m.
PAINTSVILLE, Ky. (WSAZ) --At a special and rare joint meeting of the Paintsville City Council and the city utilities commission on Thursday, they re-calculated.

Explaining that mayor Porter owed not about 71 hundred but about 79 hundred dollars, with delinquent penalties figured in.

The mayor responded that this entire public discussion was inappropriate

"You have an expectation of privacy and this is not a city matter," Mayor Bob Porter said.

But people paying their Paintsville utility bills on time responded with disgust and dismay.

One lady said if the mayor tried to get away with this, what else has he done?

Last on the agenda, the city council had the city attorney read the Kentucky law for removing a public official from office.

The council said it had contacted the attorney general's office, the league of cities and several more state offices, on how to proceed with possibly removing bob porter from office.

"There's been a lot of trust lost in the mayor's office, I don't know if we will ever get it back," Councilman Jim Meek said.

With no intention of resigning, the Mayor said he did not violate the public trust and never requested to not pay nearly three years of utility bills.

But he didn't pay up until discovered either.

"Yes, I regret that it happened," said Porter.

The utility commission will next determine when and if Mayor Porter will pay the about $800 in delinquent penalties.

City council did cut the mayors office budget from $8 thousand to $2 thousand dollars a year.
Porter called that overkill.

Mayor Porter's fate hangs on how council's policy probe ends up.

Kentucky law does require a public hearing and unanimous council vote to remove a public official from office.

When we elect a city official, we expect - at the least - fairness, honesty, and to play by the rules.
So, if that city's mayor doesn't pay his city utility bill for nearly three years running - is that a violation of the public trust?
WSAZ.com’s Randy Yohe follows up on his investigation into the mayor of Paintsville, Kentucky.

Second term mayor Bob Porter admits he got a seven thousand dollar free ride on his utility bill.
Why?
He told us Tuesday he had some financial problems - and paid the bill off only after being exposed.
Porter says – it’s a private affair and has nothing to do with being mayor.
Citizens who pay on time - and some city council members strongly disagree.

At a special and rare joint meeting of the Paintsville City Council and the city utilities commission on Thursday, they re-calculated.
Explaining that mayor Porter owed not about 71 hundred - but about 79 hundred dollars, with delinquent penalties figured in.

The mayor responded that this entire public discussion - was inappropriate
Bob Porter said:”you have an expectation of privacy and this is not a city matter.”

But people paying their Paintsville utility bills on time responded with disgust and dismay.
One lady said if the mayor tried to get away with this - what else has he done?

And last on the agenda - the city council had the city attorney read the Kentucky law for removing a public official from office
The council said it had contacted the attorney general's office, the league of cities and several more state offices - on how to proceed with possibly removing bob porter from office.
Councilman Jim Meek said: “there's been a lot of trust lost in the mayor's office, I don't know if we will ever get it back.”

With no intention of resigning, the mayor said he did not violate the public trust and never requested to not pay nearly three years of utility bills.
But he didn't pay up until discovered either.
We asked Bob Porter: after six months, you didn't say - I’m behind, let me pay this?
He said “They knew about it.”
Do you have any regrets?
“Yes, I regret that it happened.”

The utility commission will next determine when - and if - Mayor Porter will pay the about 800 dollars in delinquent penalties.
City council did cut the mayors office budget from 8 thousand to two thousand dollars a year.
Porter called that - overkill.

Will he be removed from office?
That depends on how council's policy probe ends up.
WSAZ.com will follow it to that end.

Kentucky law does require a public hearing and unanimous council vote to remove a public official from office.



UPDATE 7/10/12 @ 8:55 p.m.
PAINTSVILLE, Ky. (WSAZ) --Paintsville Mayor Bob Porter is refusing to step down, despite calls for his resignation at Tuesday night’s city council meeting.

The calls come following accusations that Porter got a free ride on his utility bill for nearly three years.

In a regularly scheduled city council meeting at the Paintsville Recreation Center, members of the community stood up to express their concern with the mayor and some asked for his resignation.

“I asked for the mayor's resignation, he should be made to pay his bills just like everyone else is,” said Brenda Castle.

After seven $7,000 in utility bills were unpaid until recently, some wanted to know why his lights stayed on.

“They didn't answer not one question for me,” said Castle.

“Really you didn't get a question answered here tonight,” said Jimmy Guess.

Guess said he was not asking for the mayor to resign, but he felt as an elected official, he should have addressed the concerns at the beginning of the meeting.

“They did not answer one question, he was asked several questions and he never answered one question.”

The council went into executive session without addressing the three people who publicly asked for Mayor Porter to resign.

Some said they will keep demanding an explanation.

“Nobody had even said, he had not even brought it out that he paid, reinstated the city the seven thousand dollars,” said Guess.

“Well I think what a lot of people here are aggravated about is that he didn't have to pay the penalties that we would be subjected to.”

There will be another special called meeting Thursday at noon at the recreation center.

Mayor Porter said earlier Tuesday that he paid his bill at the end of June and this should not be an issue.

Porter blamed small-town politics for the controversy and said he never misled anyone.



ORIGINAL STORY
PAINTSVILLE, Ky. (WSAZ) -- While thousands have suffered for days on end without utilities, we found just the opposite for a public official.

One area mayor's utilities have stayed up and running without anyone paying a bill -- for nearly three years.

WSAZ.com asks, Who let this slide? Did any other city officials get a free ride on their utilities?

In this WSAZ.com investigation, WSAZ.com’s Randy Yohe powers up some answers.

Paintsville Mayor Bob Porter begin by explaining, “I had a utility bill that went for sometime without being paid. I paid the bill in June, then later that information got released, and here we are today.”

But Porter might not be admitting this Tuesday if an unrelated open records request of someone's utility bill history did not alert the Paintsville Utilities Commission of a problem.

It was a discovery that the mayor, earning about $50,000 a year had not paid for utilities at his home along 12th Street in Paintsville since the fall of 2009 -- a delinquent bill of about $7,000.

Yohe asked Porter how it happened.

"It was just one of those things," Porter said. "I went through some financial bumps and did not pay the bill. I eventually paid it and have no other explanation than that."

The policy is that if you fail to make your monthly payments, your services will be disconnected the following month.

“There's a sense of a violation of the public trust -- without question," Paintsville Utilities Commission Chairman Mitch Kinner said.

Kinner’s general manager, Larry Herald, who simply let the mayor’s utility bill slide, resigned last Friday.

But Kinner says Herald was just on of many who knew about the mayor's free power ride.

"I think it’s clear that the office staff ignored policies and failed to disconnect on a monthly basis," Kinner said. "Every month they knew the bill was delinquent.”

Kinner says one of those office workers told him the mayor was the only one given free utilities.

"It is our plan as a commission to have an independent audit done to see if there are any other situations such as this,“ he said.

Yohe asked Porter if he felt he violated any ethical public trust by hiding the fact and knowingly not paying his utility bill for nearly three years.

“No one was ever misled or anything of that nature,” Porter said, explaining he's sorry it happened and he'll go from there.

There was talk in Paintsville some would ask for the mayor's resignation at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Porter says there's always someone out for his resignation -- no matter what. He says he's staying in office and has big plans for Paintsville’s future.


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