Six of the seven candidates running for Danville City Commission discussed their views on everything from the city’s controversial purchase of the BISCO warehouse to the planned water plant expansion during a candidates forum Monday.
Incumbent Commissioners J.H. Atkins, Kevin Caudill and Ryan Montgomery along with candidates Janet Hamner, Paul Smiley and Paige Stevens participated in the event held at Mallard’s restaurant and organized by the Boyle County 9/12 project.
Forum moderator Tomas Mauricio, who has a weekday radio show with WHIR, collected cards with questions from audience members and presented eight at the forum. Each candidate had two minutes to respond to the question; at the end, each panelist had one minute for closing remarks.
One of the questions posed to the candidates regarded whether they support Danville’s city manager form of government. All candidates present said they do.
“I would never vote to change our current form of government,” Smiley said.
Smiley signed a petition in 2008 that called for the city to switch to a mayor-council form of government. After the forum, Smiley said he vaguely recalled signing the petition but has since changed his viewpoint. This morning, he called The Advocate-Messenger and said he signed the petition not because he wanted to change the city manager system but because he felt enough people were concerned about the form of government to bring the issue to a vote.
Hamner said the city manager form of government, when used properly, eliminates problems such as “bossism” and “closed door meetings.” However, she does not believe there is an appropriate professional distance between current City Manager Ron Scott and Mayor Bernie Hunstad.
“We have a crisis in leadership that’s been allowed to happen by some of the people sitting in this row,” Hamner said.
In response to an audience member’s written question, candidates discussed the controversial August purchase of the BISCO building. The state attorney general has ruled that the current commission violated the state open meetings law by reaching a “consensus” to purchase the building in a July 23 executive session.
The summary of the decision, labeled 12-OMD-179, reads ... “Danville City Commission violated KRS 61.815(1)(c) by taking final action on the purchase of real property in closed session and KRS 61.846(1) by failing to respond to open meetings complaint alleging this violation.”
“One of the few times in two years all of us agreed on something, we ended up in the hot seat,” Atkins said. “We took the advice of the city management and the city attorney.”
Caudill said he was aware of the attorney general’s “opinion” and that he would like to know how the city commissioners should have handled the purchase.
Stevens said, “I have too many questions to be satisfied.” She also questioned why the commission would purchase a much larger building than is needed for the city’s day-to-day public works operations.
Montgomery, whose father’s business relationship with the former BISCO property owner was a point of controversy, said he did not believe a final decision was made in the July 23 executive session but that the commission’s intepretation of the law “could have been wrong.”