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Bardstown City Council removes Royalty on three counts of official misconduct

John Royalty listens as the Bardstown City Council votes unanimously to remove him as mayor Thursday evening.

 

By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Thursday, April 13, 2017, 8:35 p.m. – The courtroom audience cheered and applauded after the Bardstown City Council voted unanimously Thursday evening to remove John Royalty from his seat as the city’s mayor.

Attorney Scott Crosbie shows John Royalty an exhibit Thursday during Crosbie’s cross-examination of Royalty during the removal hearing.

The decision followed more than a day-and-a-half of testimony from nine witnesses and more than 2 hours of deliberations at the Nelson County Justice Center.

Former Circuit Judge Doughlas George served as hearing officer. After the final witnesses for both sides testified and each side presented final arguments, the six city council members left the courtroom to deliberate in a jury room.

Ironically, the anonymous packets that showed up at the Nov. 1st council meeting — the ones that ultimately led the council to launch its investigation — were removed at the last minute as an item the council would consider while deciding the mayor’s fate. The decision to eliminate the packets was announced following a lengthy sidebar with George and the attorneys for both sides.

Hearing officer George instructed the council – who served as the decision makers – told the council there were three charges they would consider in their deliberations. Their  deliberations had to determine if there was substantial evidence that:

Councilman John Kelley reads the council’s findings of three counts official misconduct against Mayor John Royalty.

1. The mayor improperly used city personnel and equipment to obtain Copeland’s private emails, and it was an unauthorized use of his power and that the action constitutes official misconduct.

2. The mayor forwarded Copeland’s private emails to one or more third parties in violation of her privacy rights, and that his actions constituted misconduct.

3. The mayor ordered a city employee to lie to the city council in order to obtain their iPads under false pretences and obtain access to their email accounts.

The council spend nearly 2-1/2 hours deliberating on the three points. When they returned to the courtroom, Councilman John Kelley reported the council determined the mayor had committed misconduct on all three charges.

Kelley made a motion for the council to adopt the findings and remove John Royalty from his seat as mayor of Bardstown.

Royalty sat emotionless at the table with his attorneys as the council voted unanimously to remove him.

Attorney Scott Crosbie posts exhibits on the courtroom wall as part of his final arguments that Mayor John Royalty’s actions that included improperly accessing councilwoman Kecia Copeland’s emails reached the level of official misconduct.

Councilman Dick Heaton, who presided over the two-day hearing, told Royalty that in order to collect his personal belongings from his office, he was to meet Police Chief Steve Uram, Public Works Director Larry Hamilton and a member of the council at City Hall 7 a.m. Friday morning. Heaton asked that Royalty return any city property in his possession at that time.

COPELAND REACTION. Kecia Copeland, who was the target of the anonymous election-eve packets that ultimately launched the investigation, said the council’s unanimous action was not about her vindication.

“Today’s all about the people of Bardstown,” she said. We’re moving forward, we’re staying positive and we’re great again.”

She credited the council with being positive and making decisions based on what they believe is best for the city.

“Each one of us love our community, and that’s why we chose to become council members,” she said.

SELECTION OF A MAYOR. The council voted to meet Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the city council chambers to appoint the new mayor who will serve the rest of Royalty’s term. If I council member is appointed, the council will also need to consider filling a seat on the council.

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