LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Taxpayer money is missing from the city of West Buechel, and state officials say the mayor took illegal steps to hide it from the public.
A police report filed by Clerk Treasurer Kim Richards alleges that someone "wrote forged checks and made internet payments," draining $107,718 from West Buechel's BB&T checking account. The report indicates that there were at least 116 separate charges between February and June of this year, and no one from City Hall caught it.
Instead, a banker with BB&T contacted the city's clerk treasurer and the bank's fraud department.
No one from the city was willing to comment on camera publicly about the issue Monday. In fact, Mayor Rick Richards, the ex-husband of the clerk treasurer, has been fighting to keep it quiet for months.
Tom Fox, a former lawyer and a current West Buechel taxpayer who records every city council meeting, said he doesn't trust city officials. He appealed to Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear's office, which found that the city violated open meeting laws by only discussing the forged checks in secret closed sessions.
"The express purpose of the Open Meetings Act is to maximize notice of public meetings and actions," Beshear's Oct. 5 opinion said. "The failure to comply with the strict letter of the law in conducting meetings of a public agency violates the public good."
Loy Crawford, a West Buechel city council member, brought the stolen money issue up during the last city council meeting Nov. 14.
"I've been asking a lot about missing money in this town, and whose name is on these checks," Crawford said. "That should be in open forum, shouldn't it?"
But Richards still shut down the conversation.
"To be honest with you, I am sick and tired of your games," he said.
West Buechel has a long history of bad bookkeeping. A 2007 state audit cited questionable uses of public funds and a lack of control over financial activity. A 2015 state audit found more than $500,000 in wasteful and questionable spending, including credit card purchases from the Home Shopping Network.
At the time of the 2015 report, Auditor Adam Edelen said the town of 1300 people is a mess.
"I’d say it has been run poorly, but I’m not sure it was being run at all," Edelen said in 2015. "When you don’t know what property you own, investments you’ve made or bank accounts you possess, how on earth can you effectively manage taxpayer dollars? If this city can’t be governed properly, perhaps this community needs to reexamine its current structure."
Fox said the administration has changed since 2015 but the money problems have not.
"I don't feel like I'm being served by city government at all," Fox said.
A WDRB investigation earlier this month exposed West Buechel Councilwoman Ruth "Janie" Mosely's living situation.
There's doubt as to whether she meets the residency requirement to serve on the city council.
Mosely sold her West Buechel home, bought a new one 30 miles away in Taylorsville, Kentucky, and changed her drivers license and voter's registration to the new Spencer county address. During the course of Mosely's story, WDRB learned that Beshear's office opened a criminal investigation into West Buechel's finances, officers and operations. With the latest episode of missing money, the FBI has joined in the case.
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