12/30/07 — Pikeville clerk put back at her desk

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Pikeville clerk put back at her desk

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on December 30, 2007 2:00 AM

PIKEVILLE -- Although a state investigation into allegations of financial irregularities is not complete, town commissioners reinstated suspended Town Clerk Kathie Fields in a 4-1 vote Friday.

A majority of the town's commissioners and Mayor Herbert Sieger said reinstating Kathie Fields would be a step toward getting town operations back on track.

Sieger said using volunteer or part-time help to perform Mrs. Fields' duties, although appreciated, is not the same as having Mrs. Fields in the office.

In three resolutions read by newly elected Commissioner Vance Greeson, commissioners explained the decision to bring Mrs. Fields back.

Commissioner Edith McClenny cast the only vote against reinstating Mrs. Fields by Jan. 2.

The State Bureau of Investigation previously said the town was within its rights to reinstate Mrs. Fields, although it would not be "prudent," Greeson said.

That was before the S.B.I. had all the evidence it needed, Commissioner Lyman Galloway said.

Galloway was among officials who wanted to give Mrs. Fields her job back almost immediately after the investigation was announced.

"We talked about bringing her back the very next day, but they (investigators) wanted to get a copy of the hard drive and all that other stuff," Galloway said.

Galloway said he believes Mrs. Fields "did nothing wrong" but said he had not seen the evidence.

Galloway said to his knowledge, none of the commissioners have seen the evidence against Mrs. Fields.

"We will be taking a calculated risk," Galloway said.

Other parts of the resolutions read by Greeson said that a 2006 audit and recommendations provided by former Town Administrator Bob Buchanan "have been approved."

Greeson's last resolution said that a representative with the Local Government Commission would review evidence against Mrs. Fields and report back to the town in January.

Galloway said commissioners had met with the Local Government Commission on multiple occasions, the last meeting taking place less than two weeks ago.

Galloway said his interpretation of recommendations was that Mrs. Fields could return to work because records in question had already been seized.

"We're just trying to get the town back on even keel. If she's working there, it doesn't affect it (the investigation) one way or another," Galloway said.

Mrs. McClenny said she did not want to reinstate Mrs. Fields before the investigation was complete and viewed it as a risk.

Sieger and Mrs. McClenny sparred earlier in the meeting over statements Mrs. McClenny made to local media.

Mrs. McClenny had said she was concerned she had not received minutes and an already written thank-you note from a visiting town clerk who volunteered her time.

Sieger said Mrs. McClenny made the clerk "come out as a villain" in the newspaper.

Mrs. McClenny said previously she had spoken with the volunteer clerk, who indicated minutes from a closed session were complete and ready.

Sieger said all commissioners received documents at the same time and that Mrs. McClenny had not been denied anything.

"Her (Mrs. McClenny's) copy is in the safe, along with mine," Sieger said. "I have never read them ... The minutes and the tapes were put in the safe until such time as they were (distributed) to all board members."

The conversation between Sieger and Mrs. McClenny became heated, and Greeson later told the mayor he was "out of line" with the tone and delivery of his comments.

Greeson, recently elected again after serving a previous term, said he was tired of vitriol associated with holding elected office in Pikeville.

"The day I was sworn in, I said 'I can deal with the truth, but I can't deal with the lies,'" Greeson said. "There are enough rumors floating around the town. If the truth was right here in front of us, we couldn't recognize it.

"We need to throw all the innuendoes out the window."

Greeson said he was disappointed by rumors that allegations against Mrs. Fields had been distributed around town to citizens.

"I understand that the allegations ... that we heard in closed session is floating around," Greeson said. "I do not have a copy of it. I think it's a sad situation if somebody really does have it."