Bardstown mayor sues city council over investigation into possible misconduct
Bardstown Mayor John Royalty has sued his own city council in an effort to stop them from possibly removing him from office.
BARDSTOWN, Ky. (WDRB) – Bardstown Mayor John Royalty has sued his own city council in an effort to stop them from possibly removing him from office.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Nelson Circuit Court, names as defendants the current members of Bardstown City Council and Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear. It alleges that Royalty was not afforded due process before a hearing about his future was scheduled.
On Jan. 3, the council voted to launch an investigation into packets of traffic tickets and court cases involving council members Kecia Copeland and Francis Lydian that were left outside City Hall. Those packets were found two days before Election Day.
The council hired Lexington attorney Scott Crosbie to conduct the investigation. At a council meeting on March 28, Crosbie said his probe found that Royalty abused his power and violated privacy laws in an attempt to ruin the reputation of Copeland before last year's election.
"Mayor Royalty improperly used city personnel and equipment to access, review and obtain copies of private email accounts and communication of councilwoman Kecia Copeland dating back to 2013 and before she was an elected council member," Crosbie told council members.
Royalty was absent from the meeting on March 28 due to a “family emergency,” according to his attorney Jason Floyd.
A public hearing is scheduled for April 12 to discuss removing Royalty for misconduct.
Royalty’s lawsuit calls the investigation “a sham attempt, cloaked in the secrecy of alleged ‘attorney-client privilege,’ to conduct a three month discovery investigation to provide evidence to remove the Mayor.”
The suit claims that during the course of the three-month investigation, Royalty attempted on multiple occasions to gain access to documents and records used in the investigation via an open records request. The city’s records custodian, also a council member, denied the request on the basis of “attorney-client privilege.”
On March 6, Royalty, through his attorney, appealed to Beshear’s office, saying the council improperly denied the records.
Since then, the attorney general’s office has told Royalty it plans to inspect those records before making a determination if any laws were broken. A decision is expected by May 18.
The lawsuit asks the court to prevent any documents or statements that were obtained during the investigation to be used during the public hearing on Royalty’s future.
It also asks a judge to find that members of Bardstown City Council can’t be called as witnesses in the public hearing because they “cannot possibly be ‘fair and impartial’ in this matter.”
The suit also asks for a jury trial and other unspecified damages.
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