Radcliff Fort Knox Tourism & Convention Commission members say the mayor has threatened to replace them if they do not cooperate with his goals. It’s a charge he denies.
The accusations come after Mayor Mike Weaver asked the commission to contribute $25,000 toward the salary of a not-yet-hired city events coordinator — a position the city council is unlikely to approve without external funding.
“He made it very clear (to the commission at recent meetings) that he can put people on and he can take people off,” said Kelly Barron, commission executive director, later adding, “I’ve been here for 19 years and never experienced anything like this.”
She added Weaver’s comments were directly related to his publicly stated desire to obtain money from the commission for an events coordinator.
Weaver said he would not replace any board members — who are unpaid volunteers — to secure funding for that position or to meet any other goals. Asked if he told board members to remember he can replace them, he said, “I may have. I don’t remember” and that anyone can look up when appointments are scheduled to be made.
Minutes of the meeting have not been approved and the audio recording of the meeting won’t be released until they are, likely at the commission’s May 18 meeting, Barron said.
“I think we’re going to find that (the commission is) going to do what Mr. Weaver wants because they don’t want to be replaced,” Councilwoman Barbara Baker said at the council’s April work session, evoking an animated facial reaction from Weaver. “You can only bully people for so long.”
Baker declined to clarify those comments in an interview, saying she needs to “be diplomatic” if she is “going to get anything out of (Weaver’s) office.”
Commission President Margo Kampe did not consider Weaver’s remarks to be bullying “but he has been trying to use his authority to get his way.”
Councilman T.W. Shortt — who was at commission meetings Weaver attended — echoed Kampe, saying Weaver was not bullying the commission as he attempted to coax money out of it, but did make remarks “containing threats to make changes to the tourism commission if necessary.”
Charlie Fraley, the commission’s secretary treasurer, said Weaver’s comments were “troubling” and “threatening” and “kind of gave all of us a bad taste in our mouths.”
Weaver said commissioners’ fears are unfounded.
“I did not say I was going to replace anybody,” he said, adding, he looks for candidates wanting to do what it takes to move the city forward when making appointments to any board.
He also said he thinks commissioners are overreacting.
“I don’t think a mayor has ever questioned them before,” he said. “And I questioned some of their actions.”
Asked to share specific concerns, he said, “I’m not going to tell you.”
The $25,000 Weaver asked for would amount to nearly 10 percent of the commission’s annual budgets based on the last three years and the projection for the next fiscal year, records show and Barron said.
The Elizabethtown Tourism and Convention Bureau’s annual budget is more than $3 million — roughly 12 times larger than the Radcliff commission, which is funded primarily by a hotel tax. Tourism in Elizabethtown also receives proceeds from the 2 percent tax on prepared food.
According to an attorney retained by the commission, its money can be used only to promote tourism and cannot be used to fund a city employee’s salary “in part or in whole.”
“We are legally not able to pay for an events coordinator,” Kampe said. “We cannot help.”
Weaver said he has “not seen the opinion they’ve gotten from their attorney.”
Barron is an employee of the board and cannot directly be replaced by the mayor.
Elizabethtown has employed Sarah Vaughn as its events coordinator since 2012 at a salary of $44,800. City government receives $100,000 annually from the Elizabethtown Tourism and Convention Bureau for its events department, a fact Weaver used as evidence for why the Radcliff commission should pay for half the $50,000 salary of his city’s potential hire.
But the Elizabethtown commission has sources of revenue, such as liquor and restaurant taxes, that its neighbor does not and money given to Elizabethtown go toward operating the whole department — which has an annual budget of about $200,000 — and not directly toward Vaughn’s salary, Elizabethtown city officials said.
“I think (Weaver) has got us confused with E’town,” said Kampe, speaking about how state law directs the use of particular taxes. “There’s no comparing the two cities.”
Without the funding from the Radcliff commission, it is unlikely Radcliff City Council will vote to create the position Weaver wants. Several councilmembers said the funding is required for their vote while others said they would like to see more data. Others said they would like to see event coordination moved into the city’s parks and recreation department.
“We may not have an events coordinator for a year,” Weaver said Tuesday. “We may be able to work things out and get one this summer, but the time for an events coordinator is now.”
Judah Taylor can be reached at 270-505-1762 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.