Newly elected council member appointed to serve on city tourism board

Nov. 16—Controversy on city tourism board appointments continues to arise, with multiple city council members now serving on that board.

The most recent appointment to the city tourism board is Donnie Lee Philpot, who was just elected to the London City Council and will take office in January. Philpot also serves on the city's Planning and Zoning Board, placing him now on three city boards.

Philpot's appointment puts four of the seven city tourism seats filled by city council members. The other three are Kelly Greene and Kip Jervis, who were re-elected to city council, and Holly Little, who has served on the tourism board for several terms, and was just elected to serve on city council.

Greene and Jervis were already serving on city council when they were appointed to the tourism board. Tourism board appointments are made by the mayor, who receives names of three nominees from the various agencies comprising the tourism commission. The City has two representatives, for which the Mayor hand picks.

The city tourism board is comprised of seven members: two from the City of London, three from the hotel/motel association, one from the London Laurel County Chamber of Commerce, and one from the restaurant association.

Starr Handy, who is also chairman of the city tourism board, Greene and Little are all representatives of the Hotel/Motel Association; Phil Smith represents the one seat for the restaurant association, while Lois McWhorter serves as the Chamber representative. Jervis and Bill Dezarn fill the seats as City appointees.

Handy and Dezarn's terms expire on Nov. 27. But Handy was re-appointed for another term. Dezarn's spot on the board will be filled by Philpot.

While Philpot's appointment gives a majority of the city tourism board to city council members, state law prohibits any of those appointments.

In a February 2014 letter from McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie and Kirkland PLLC, the appointments of city council members to a tourism board violates KRS 91A.350, KRS 91A.360, KRS 91A.370, KRS 91A.372 and KRS 91A.380.

The Kentucky Constitution, Section 165 states:

"No person shall, at the same time, be a state officer or deputy officer or member of the General Assembly, and an officer of any county, city, town, or other municipality, or an employee thereof: and no person shall, at the same time, fill two municipal offices, either in the same or different municipalities, except as may be otherwise provided in this Constitution."

The letter further states that opinion is reflected in KRS 61.080, which prohibits an individual from holding incompatible offices. That is termed in the following wording in Section 4: "No person shall, at the same time, fill two (2) municipal offices, either in the same or different municipalities."

The letter re-iterates KRS 91A.080(4) "prohibits a person from holding two municipal offices." It supports that with further statements that "Multiple Opinions of the Attorney General's Office hold that a tourism commission is a municipal/county agency....Thus, a commissioner of a tourism board is an office holder of that agency and of that governmental entity."

Greene, who serves on both city council and city tourism, said she will step down from the tourism board if necessary.

"I just want to do what is right, and if it isn't right for someone to serve on both boards, so be it," she said.

Daniel Carmack, who did not seek re-election for city council this term, also spoke out regarding the majority of tourism commission seats being filled by council members.

"The tourism board should operate separately from the city council. Given that it has been made clear by the State Auditor's office that the two should function separately, it is deeply troubling that city council members are the majority of the tourism board," he said. "The city tourism board is an SPGE and is responsible for its own functions, and should be separate from the city council. I don't know how that can happen when you have a majority of city council members serving on the tourism board."

Carmack said that those appointments of city council members to the tourism board were done without the knowledge and approval of other city council members.

"The council had no knowledge of those appointments," he said. "Sometimes the Mayor will say something in a meeting about appointing someone to a committee or board, but we were not told about either Kip or Donnie Lee being put on the tourism board."

"It is deeply concerning that in a city with a population of 8,500 people, the only ones appointed to serve on the tourism board is a city council member," he added.