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.
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