Bowling Green city commissioners spoke Tuesday for the first time publicly about a high-profile ethics probe into one of their own.
Brian “Slim” Nash participated in the almost three-hour commission meeting Tuesday that concluded with a vote that formally started his four-week leave of absence from city government.
The leave of absence was part of a settlement agreement he reached with the city’s ethics board after his May 23 arrest on public intoxication charges after attending a concert at the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center. On May 28, he pleaded guilty and paid a $25 fine plus court costs.
The arrest led to 23 ethics complaints against Nash to the ethics board, which hired Paducah-based lawyer Stacey Blankenship in June to investigate the matter. Last month, the ethics board accepted Blankenship’s report, which concluded Nash violated the city’s code of ethics.
Before the vote to formally accept the settlement agreement, Nash read a statement recusing himself from voting because of a conflict of interest. Nash then left the commission chambers.
Before the unanimous vote to accept the settlement, commissioners discussed the difficulty that arose from the incident.
Commissioner Dana Beasley-Brown said the incident “had caused citizens to lose confidence” in elected officials.
Commissioner Sue Parrigin said the fact that Nash was not charged with DUI has led many to believe elected officials have a different set of rules than the general public.
“I assure you that is not the case,” she said. “There is not a different set of rules. If anything, we live in a fish bowl ... and now we are in a giant fish bowl.”
She added that she wants to examine potential changes to the ethics process to avoid the use of tax dollars.
Blankenship’s first bill to the city for her services in the ethics probe, obtained by the Daily News through an open records act request, was $12,004.48.
Mayor Bruce Wilkerson said the situation spurred “myriad jokes and comments” and was “demoralizing” to city staff. He also said it had consumed much time, energy and money.
“Personally, I’m disappointed” in Nash’s actions, Wilkerson said.
Along with the four-week leave of absence, the settlement agreement calls for Nash to donate his salary (roughly $1,200) from that time to a local substance abuse recovery center and to seek counseling.
Ethics board chairman Barry Pruitt also briefly spoke Tuesday, saying “our work is not finished.” He said the probe had led the board to identify needed “changes in the complaint procedures.”
He said he would detail recommended changes to the commission at a future meeting.
Also Tuesday, commissioners:
• took the next step for phase two of downtown renovations. The roughly $4 million phase one renovation of downtown Bowling Green is slated to be complete in the next few weeks.
Since the spring, crews have been installing new sidewalks and fixtures, renovating Capitol and Morris alleys, repaving streets and squaring off Fountain Square Park.
On Tuesday, commissioners approved a $264,972 contract with Vaughn & Melton Consulting Engineers of Lexington, the same firm that designed phase one of the project, to design, plan and coordinate the next phase of the project.
The second phase, slated to go out for bids next summer, will include extending improvements such as new sidewalks from around the existing new sidewalks on Fountain Square down College and State streets to East Sixth Avenue and along East Main to Chestnut Street and Center Street.
As was done with the first phase, Vaughn & Melton staff will meet with stakeholders and the public to gather input on phase two plans.
The first phase is slated to be complete in December except for some plantings scheduled to be done in the spring.
• accepted a financial audit of the city from MCM CPAs & Advisors. The audit shows the city’s overall governmental fund balance is $73.6 million, an increase of $6.8 million since last year. The city’s general fund balance also increased $400,000 to $28 million.
• accepted a $70,226 grant from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to be used for a Moss Middle School Greenways project. The new greenway will extend from behind the school on Russellville Road to an existing greenway on Creekwood Drive.