The Bowling Green Board of Ethics on Thursday deliberated on several ethics complaints and found no ethics violations by Mayor Bruce Wilkerson, Commissioner Sue Parrigin and the ethics board chairman.
The anonymous ethics complaint against Wilkerson was filed regarding his endorsement of mayoral candidate Todd Alcott at a press event at City Hall.
On Sept. 1, Wilkerson invited local media to City Hall and announced in the city commission chambers that he was dropping his reelection bid, citing health reasons. He then endorsed candidate Alcott, who was also in attendance.
A copy of the anonymous complaint, which was also sent to the Daily News, claimed that “while the Mayor has every right to endorse whomever he likes, he does not have the right to use city property or city resources to do so. He also does not have the right to utilize the Commission Chambers or the Bowling Green city seals as a backdrop for political purposes.”
The complaint further alleges “Wilkerson and Alcott violated 25-9-1 of the city code of ethics, which states that ‘No city-owned or city-supported property, vehicle, equipment, labor or service will be used by a public official or employee ... in his or her private use.’ Wilkerson’s endorsement is a private affair and constitutes an ethics violation when done under the guise of official city business.”
After an almost three-hour closed session, the ethics board unanimously found Thursday that Wilkerson didn’t violate the code of ethics because he did not secure “special privileges” and that the code of ethics does not cover use of city property, ethics board chairman Barry Pruitt said.
Pruitt said the ethics board also received several complaints regarding Facebook posts by Wilkerson and Parrigin that attacked Commissioner Dana Beasley-Brown over a paper written as a class assignment by Western Kentucky University students. The paper revealed Beasley Brown was a “radical,” according to Wilkerson’s post. The students who wrote the paper said Beasley-Brown had no involvement in the paper and didn’t even know it was being written.
The ethics board also unanimously voted that the posts did not violate the city’s code of ethics.
Pruitt was also the target of an anonymous ethics complaint regarding the feed on his Twitter account that show he “does not demonstrate the capacity for courtesy, impartiality or fairness,” according to the complaint. The complaint cites tweets liked or retweeted by Pruitt including ones calling Democrats “liars and hoaxers” and one saying “every season good cops die so some worthless Democrat can have power.”
With Pruitt recusing himself, the remaining ethics board members voted that Pruitt also did not violate the code of ethics with his personal Twitter account.
After the meeting, Pruitt declined to say why the ethics board did not appoint a special counsel to investigate a complaint against an elected official, as it did in 2019 when ethics complaints were filed against Commissioner Brian “Slim” Nash after his arrest on a charge of alcohol intoxication in a public place.
The ethics board members were nominated to their position by Wilkerson and approved by the city commission.
At the start of the meeting at City Hall, ethics board members discussed a change, spurred by the Nash investigation, that they recently proposed to the city commission regarding passing on the cost of ethics investigations to those being investigated.
The commission on a first reading Sept. 15 voted to not include that change to the code of ethics, with Parrigin and Wilkerson voting to include the change and Beasley-Brown, Nash and Joe Denning voting against it. A second and binding vote is slated for the Oct. 20 commission meeting.
Ethics board members said they were disappointed the change did not pass. After discussing options moving forward, the ethics board members agreed they would draft a letter to commissioners restating their support for the change.
– Follow Managing Editor Wes Swietek on Twitter @WesSwietek or visit bgdaily news.com.
As preschoolers strolled into The Foundry Christian Community Center on Thursday wearing brightly colored backpacks and cloth face masks, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., surveyed the scene and welcomed students to school, afterward speaking to reporters about the prospects of another federal stimulus package.
Serving students in Bowling Green’s impoverished west end, The Foundry offers preschool and after-school programs dedicated to kindergarten readiness.
Given the coronavirus pandemic, the center is requiring 5-year-olds to wear masks. Masks are optional for younger children.
Program teachers wear see-through masks “so the kids can see their smiles,” Foundry Executive Director Terry Daniels said. School meals are served directly in classrooms, and children play only with classmates.
Speaking to reporters about the importance of early childhood education, Paul drew on a metaphor from his experience as an eye surgeon: If a child’s eyes weren’t healthy, brain development would also fall behind.
“It’s the same way with learning skills. You got to have that foundation, and this is incredibly important,” the Bowling Green lawmaker said, referring to The Foundry’s work.
Daniels joined Paul to speak about the center’s mission in the west end of Bowling Green, which is one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
“Our ministry here is really education, and so the more we get to do that, the more we make an impact in the west end,” Daniels said.
If a student can read at grade level by the time they reach the third grade, for example, they’ll be equipped to learn fifth-grade math and seventh-grade science, he said.
“We believe that we can really make an impact on the students, on their families, as well as the west end,” Daniels said.
Many of the center’s students are English learners. To help support their learning needs, Daniels said, The Foundry recently recruited Melanie Llontop, who previously taught ESL at Greenwood High School, as its education director.
“We’ve been able to adapt for every student that comes in the door, and we find that as we work with them and love them and teach them, they’re learning the concepts. So ESL has not been a challenge for us,” Daniels said.
With students back in school and returning to something of a new normal, Paul said young children aren’t as susceptible to contracting COVID-19 and less likely to spread it to adults. Many experience only mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.
Paul likened the COVID-19 pandemic to a “natural disaster” and a “calamity” and sought to cast certain aspects in a positive light.
With about 8 million Americans having contracted the disease, and perhaps more than that figure, Paul said “the good news is we have a lot of immunity out there.”
One key remaining question, however, is how long COVID-19 antibodies provide protection. There have been cases of reinfection, including the case of a 25-year-old Nevada man who tested negative and was reinfected less than six weeks later, according to The Guardian.
Paul also lamented what he described as bipartisan finger-pointing about who bears the responsibility for the coronavirus pandemic, which has now killed more than 215,000 Americans.
“When a flood happens, we don’t say, ‘Oh, it was the Republicans’ fault or the Democrats’ fault.’ We just try to kind of come together,” he said.
Asked about the potential for another round of stimulus spending and whether it will offer vital support to the nation’s schools, Paul noted the federal government has spent roughly $3.5 trillion, “but it was all money we didn’t have. It had to be borrowed.”
“I think we need to get the economy open so we can get all of our businesses going again,” Paul said, adding “the sooner, the better.”
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.
As a youngster growing up in inner-city Louisville, Clark Arnold learned to look up to law enforcement. Now he has a chance to help develop that same respect for police officers among today’s school-age children.
Arnold started this week his new job working for the Warren County Sheriff’s Office as school resource officer supervisor for Warren County Public Schools, a job that he believes he has spent years preparing for.
“Since I was in preschool I wanted to be a police officer,” said Arnold, who retired in 2013 after 21 years with the Bowling Green Police Department and continues to serve in the U.S. Army Reserves. “Law enforcement officers were in our neighborhood a lot, doing good things.”
In his new job, Arnold will oversee the work of the 10 school resource officers who are already in Warren County schools and make sure that the school system complies with the mandates of school safety legislation passed by the Kentucky General Assembly last year.
“It’s a dual-hat position,” said Arnold, who was an assistant police chief with the BGPD. “It gives the sheriff another more direct line of supervision of the SROs while at the same time fulfilling the safety obligations of the state legislation.”
Senate Bill 1, or the School Safety and Resiliency Act, calls for boosting safety and prevention training, requiring superintendents to appoint a school safety coordinator, encouraging collaboration with law enforcement and hiring more counselors and school resource officers.
Fueled by a 2018 property tax hike, the Warren County school system has beefed up its SRO staff and now has an officer in each high school and middle school along with one who serves alternative schools and one “floater” who visits elementary schools.
Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Rob Clayton said Arnold is a welcome addition to the WCPS administrative offices on Lovers Lane.
“Clark has extensive experience in the military and in law enforcement,” Clayton said. “Bringing him on board will give us the opportunity to have someone here who is an active member of the sheriff’s office and give us the ability to respond quickly to events.”
Arnold, 55, joined the U.S. Army in 1984 and most recently was command sergeant major for the Army Reserves 377th Theater Sustainment Command. In his new role, he will supervise those 10 SROs from his Lovers Lane office.
He is filling a role that had been held by retired police officer Jay Wilson, who served as WCPS director of school safety and energy manager before retiring at the end of July.
Warren County Sheriff Brett Hightower sees advantages in having a sheriff’s office employee in the role of SRO supervisor.
“He (Arnold) will have a direct line of communication with Warren County Public Schools administration and with the sheriff’s office,” Hightower said. “It’s another opportunity for us to build relationships with the schools and students.
“I believe we’ve seen huge benefits from having SROs in the schools. I see it as a sustainable program.”
Likewise, Clayton sees the increased safety measures as a long-term investment.
“We would not be adding this position if we weren’t confident that it’s one we can sustain,” he said. “The partnership with the sheriff’s office makes this possible. I’m pleased that Sheriff Hightower found the very best fit for this position.”
Arnold aims to build on the well-established SRO program, which he sees as a great opportunity to serve the community.
“When Sheriff Hightower offered me this opportunity, I couldn’t pass it up,” Arnold said. “I believe I was put here to make a difference. The military and law enforcement have given me the opportunity to do that.”
– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdaily news.com.
GLASGOW – Two additional entities have expressed interest in serving as trustee of the Lera B. Mitchell Clubhouse, which serves as a community meeting venue.
Mayor Harold Armstrong announced the news during an Oct. 9 meeting at the South Green Street clubhouse. The mayor also shared the information with the Glasgow City Council on Monday.
“There’s a couple of other groups that stepped up and said they would like to be considered, so the clubs and those people are talking and we’re basically on the sidelines just listening (to see) what they are going to work out,” he said.
One of the entities is T.J. Regional Health. The other has yet to be named.
The city serves as clubhouse trustee, but the clubhouse is actually owned by the local chapter of the Edmund Rogers Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Glasgow Musicale, the Glasgow Garden Club and the Glasgow Business and Professional Women’s Club.
The city is no longer interested in serving as trustee due to the expense involved in the building’s upkeep.
LaDonna Rogers, chief of human resources for T.J. Regional Health, attended the Oct. 9 meeting and explained why the health organization is interested in managing the clubhouse.
“Basically, the talk that Neil (Thornbury, chief executive officer of T.J. Regional Health) and I have had is because it is an enhancement of what we do in the community. We truly care about the community and what goes on here and the groups that utilize this building are people that we service every day,” Rogers said.
“Again, we have a very important relationship with the garden club and the things they do to help the hospital. We just felt like it was something that we needed to look into. Of course, someone would have to request us before anything like that would take place.”
As trustee, the city pays about $80,000 a year for clubhouse upkeep.
Armstrong, City Attorney Danny Basil, the club’s representatives and some senior citizens who come to the clubhouse to play bridge, do ceramics, make quilts and shoot pool attended the Oct. 9 meeting. Among the senior citizens present for the meeting was Thurman Baker.
“I’ve been a citizen of Glasgow for about the past 14 years and I’ve been coming down here all of that time. During that time we’ve had several members who regularly come down to play cards and pool that have been terminally ill,” he said. “ … We have some terminally ill members now that are able to come down here. This is all they do. … . It is an important thing for us to have a place to go.”
The mayor told him the senior citizens will have a place to continue their activities regardless of whether that place is at the clubhouse or another location.
At the city council’s Sept. 28 meeting, it was announced that Bridge Kentucky, a nonprofit organization, is interested in becoming the clubhouse’s trustee and would like to keep it functioning as it is now. It was the first organization to express interesting in becoming trustee of the clubhouse.
A handout distributed at the Sept. 28 meeting said Bridge Kentucky strives to reduce poverty and financial instability by assisting at-risk families.
It was also mentioned at the Sept. 28 council meeting that a meeting between club representatives and officials with Bridge Kentucky would be scheduled.
Bridge Kentucky is still interested in becoming trustee and would like to locate its offices there, said Councilman Patrick Gaunce, who serves on Bridge Kentucky’s board of directors.
“If Bridge (Kentucky) is involved, which we would love to be, then we want to be involved with the rest of the people that is in that building, (but) if it works a better way for them, no harm, no foul,” Gaunce said.
During the Oct. 9 meeting, some club representatives said they weren’t in favor of Bridge Kentucky becoming the clubhouse’s trustee.
Glenda Eaton, president of the Glasgow Garden Club, said a majority of the club’s members do not want Bridge Kentucky becoming the trustee due to safety concerns with many people coming to the clubhouse seeking Bridge Kentucky’s services.
“We are not going to have people come see us if we don’t provide a safe environment,” Gaunce said.
Barbara Pendleton of the Glasgow Musicale said she thinks Bridge Kentucky “... is a fine organization, but I don’t think they are right for this building because they would have to make too many changes. They wanted to move their offices here and there’s no office space. There’s only one little room for an office,” she said.
Pendleton also said she also didn’t want to see the main meeting area of the clubhouse petitioned off into office space.
June Jackson, regent of the DAR, said her organization thinks Bridge Kentucky is a valid charity and does important work.
“We question whether or not their use of the facility is compatible with the ... five clubs, including Newcomers now, and the other activities that we support that are currently happening in the clubhouse,” she said. “But we have absolutely no negative thing to say about Bridge Kentucky.”
Some of the club representatives support the possibility of T.J. Regional Health becoming the next trustee.
“I think T.J. would be a fabulous choice. I think they could add to what’s happening here with health fairs and things that are of interest in our women’s club and the other men’s groups that are using the club, too,” Jackson said.
The city set an initial deadline of Jan. 1 for a decision to be made, but the mayor said Oct. 9 the city would wait until July 1.