A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Covington Development Director Yeager resigns prior to Commission meeting to vote on his termination

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By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

Covington Development Director/City Engineer Mike Yeager submitted his resignation this morning, prior to a special meeting by the City Commission that was expected to result in the approval of his termination.

Yeager

Yeager was given the opportunity to resign several weeks ago, but declined and it appeared he was going to force a Commission vote to end the employment relationship with the City of Covington.

He apparently had a change of heart, and agreed to accept the terms for his resignation, which is effective today.

Mayor Joe Meyer said several issues influenced the Commission’s decision to ask Yeager to step down.

“I don’t know why it was the way it was but the mismanagement went really deep and there were other issues with his performance that prompted the Commission as a whole to give him the option to either resign or be terminated,” Meyer said. “This has the benefit of ending this chapter for the city, and allows us to move on to the next chapter, and him as well.”

The terms authorized by the Commission include two months severance pay, and that the City will not contest Yeager’s application for unemployment insurance benefits and will provide COBRA health coverage through May, if necessary.

In return, Yeager has agreed to a full release of all claims against the City and its officials and has agreed to return all of his city property and information, including emails, and has waived his right to a hearing.

“Honestly, he couldn’t have been happy here either,” Meyer said. “It’s a fair termination agreement under the circumstances.”

Meyer

Commissioner Jordan Huizenga praised Yeager for his service to the City and the people of Covington.

“I regularly heard wonderful feedback about Mike’s service and I want to thank him for his time and work here,” Huizenga said.

Yeager was strongly criticized in a report from an independent investigation of the City of Covington’s Code Enforcement Department (CED). The report cites gross mismanagement, the need for clear, complete policy manuals, allegations of selective enforcement, and a lack of training, professionalism, and internal controls.

The 29-page report on the investigation, conducted by Scott White of Miller Edwards Rambicure PLLC of Lexington, was instituted at the request of the City Commission and Meyer in June. It followed the resignation of three code enforcement officers, including a manager, who complained about how the department was being managed.

“There was just a tremendous amount of mismanagement in Mr. Yeager’s department from the report on code enforcement and a lot of actions that not only were mismanagement, but cost the city a whole lot of money” Meyer said. “For example, the whole abandoned properties program, several lawsuits that we had to settle involving misuse of code enforcement authority, where we paid out literally tens of thousands of dollars in damages.”

Yeager’s handling of whistleblowers, code enforcement officers who brought the issues within the department to light, was also criticized in the report;

“Yeager’s behavior over the course of the investigation raises serious concerns about his judgment.”

The Miller Edwards Rambicure report made several recommendations to address what it identified as mismanagement in Yeager’s Department.

Those included consulting with the Kentucky League of cities to provide code enforcement officer training, assessing the current assignments and workloads, and that the City should mandate that Yeager undergo additional ethics training on the responsibilities of management during Whistleblower investigations.

It suggested a review of the city’s personnel policy and ethics guidelines to determine if disciplinary action was appropriate or necessary regarding Yeager’s behavior.

The report also concluded that Yeager’s portfolio is too large and diverse to sustain the close level of scrutiny and management of the CED.

There is no immediate timetable to replace Yeager because it is not clear how the position will be defined, going forward.

Meyer agreed that Yeager had a lot of responsibilities and described the organization structure of the City as “an unmitigated disaster.”

“That’s one of the things we are working on trying to clean up,” Meyer said. “As a matter of fact, we’re going to have a presentation on a new organizational structure at our next meeting.”

At the November 28 City Commission meeting, City Manager David Johnston is expected to introduce a plan for the revised organizational structure. The Commission is also expected to vote on whether to go forward with a new organizational structure at the meeting. If approved, a proposed new organizational structure could be brought to the Commission for a vote in December.

If the organizational structure is approved, the City could begin accepting application for new positions created by the restructuring as early as January.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

 

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