Mayor on office: 'Worse than starting from scratch'

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By Linda Ireland

 Thursday night, City Councilman Kenny DeVore was sworn in as interim mayor.

The action came after several hours of testimony and a unanimous decision by Hodgenville City Council to remove second-term mayor, Terry Cruse.

Michelle Sparks, an attorney hired by the city council, presented evidence gleaned from a Kentucky State Police investigation and open record requests to the council. Ron Mather represented Cruse.

The Council determined Cruse had violated city ordinances by illegally increasing his own pay and that of City Clerk/Treasurer MaDonna Hornback; hiring his own son and Hornback’s at the water plant; and misusing the city’s fleet gas card.

Cruse has 30 days to appeal the decision in LaRue Circuit Court.

In one of his first acts as mayor Thursday, DeVore asked Police Chief Steve Johnson to retrieve keys to vehicles and buildings from Cruse and Hornback.

On Friday morning, DeVore entered City Hall and began “trying to figure out things.” He discovered a blank computer screen in the mayor’s office and a password-protected screen in the clerk’s office – and no password.

“It appears everything has been deleted on the mayor’s computer,” he said.

DeVore said Hornback did not show up for work Friday or Monday – but she has not been terminated.

“I haven’t heard from her,” he said. 

He’s not sure about the City’s policy for dealing with employee absences because the office has been “stripped clean” of all policy and procedure manuals and ordinances. He found an empty ordinance book and binders.

DeVore said the situation was “worse than starting from scratch.”

“This could hurt vendors, employees, any resident of the City,” he said.

DeVore has met with all department heads and asked them for any copies of policies and let him know if there is a problem. 

“I’m asking for any policy and procedures so we can start rebuilding our knowledge base,” he said. “I do have (Red Hill) cemetery files.”

He believes all other employees showed up for work Friday.

Besides trying to locate files, he was hearing complaints from the public about high grass, low-hanging limbs and police harassment.

“I’ll get back with them,” he said. “But probably not today.”

He will have to appoint someone to replace himself on City Council, consider the City’s budget, write job descriptions, and bid out a wastewater project. The Council also will appoint an ethics board and amend the ethics policy.

Although the original ordinance has not been located, there are several copies, he said.

The Council wants to make sure duties are segregated at City Hall and more cross-training is done so “two people won’t be controlling the entire operation.”

DeVore said the last several weeks have been “stressful and exhausting” for all involved.

“We need prayers,” he said. “We really do.”

Mather said Monday he was unaware of the problems DeVore had experienced Friday at City Hall.

He said he saw a computer technician at City Hall when he returned a Kentucky League of Cities handbook Monday.

“(Kentucky State Police) boxed up everything (during their investigation) if it wasn’t nailed down,” he said.

Cruse faces nine counts of abuse of public trust; one count of theft by unlawful taking; two counts of campaign contribution restrictions/expense limits; and two counts of second-degree forgery. Hornback is charged with 54 counts of abuse of public trust and one count of theft by unlawful taking.

Both Cruse and Hornback filed not-guilty pleas following the indictments.