A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Covington city commissioners join lawsuit against state over pensions; move ahead on Greenway

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

Add another city to the list of those suing the state over its troubled pension system.

In a surprise addition to the board’s legislative agenda Tuesday night, Covington city commissioners voted unanimously to join a class action lawsuit with other county cities like Fort Wright, Taylor Mill and Independence, asking for the separation of county funds (CERS) from the Kentucky Employee Retirement System (KERS).

Mayor Joe Meyer explained the importance of the issue and noted that joining the lawsuit would come at no taxpayer cost.

Fort Wright originally filed the class action suit against the KERS Board of Trustees in 2014, and city officials have explained that decades of mismanagement of money and bad investments by the legislature and its Board led to the underfunding of KERS, whereas the county accounts are much more stable.

Independence and Taylor Mill joined the fight this year, and now Covington officials say they are ready for change, too.

“The issue is very significant to the city,” Meyer said.

The city also decided Tuesday night to move forward with phases two and three of the Licking River Greenway Project.

Last month, commissioners tabled the idea, (which describes a project to build a sidewalk to connect the city’s parks) mainly because it had come in $122,000 over budget. The asphalt sidewalk, with access points to the river, would improve the environment, generate education and recreation opportunities, and add value to the homes there, Parks and Recreation officials said.

The project, which actually began in 2008, would build the sidewalk from Eighth Street to the floodwall, along the top of the floodwall to Twelfth Street, up the hill and down to Sixteenth Street, which would then tie in to Clayton-Meyer Park, effectively connecting Clayton-Meyer to Austinburg and Randolph Parks.

But Mayor Meyer said he would not spend more than the budgeted $591,000 and asked the city to investigate further ways of saving money.

Tuesday, City Manager David Johnston came back to the Board to present the project again, explaining how they’d met the Mayor’s budget request by removing the trail north of Tenth Street, removing a spur at Austinburg and having the city do some of the work, like installing a canopy fence for the project.

“We need to get this long overdue project moving forward,” Johnston said.

The Board agreed, voting unanimously to do so.


– Mayor Meyer pulled a previously scheduled item from the agenda – the approval of hiring Thomas M. West as city Economic Development Director, effective Dec. 1 – saying that the issue did not need approval because West had already been hired by the city manager, who had the authority to do so. However, there was some confusion over the situation, as a first reading of an ordinance also appeared on Tuesday night’s agenda calling for the creation of West’s position, along with the designation of his salary.

Former commissioner Chuck Eilerman expressed concern over the timeline of events, and said so to the Board in the public comments portion of the meeting. He first commended the Board for creating the position, but questioned the order, explaining how he felt it was “unusual” to hire someone, then officially create that position. He also wondered why there were no opportunities for others to apply for the job. He suggested the Board “pursue normal order,” with multiple interviews and background checks of candidates to get the best possible person.

Nevertheless, West’s hiring moved forward, as did the creation of the position.

– Commissioners unanimously approved a new ordinance that will require a signed Acknowledgment of Confidentiality of Tax Information form “from city finance department employees and other specified individuals.” Language for the new ordinance comes from similar laws at the state level, the city manager said. 

– Pat Frew, Executive Director of the Covington Business Council, presented to the Board, showcasing some of the efforts the council has completed over the past year, including planting projects and the mural dedication of the pump station at the RiverCenter. Frew also said one of the council’s ongoing projects will be remediation of graffiti across the city.

– Commissioners then went into Executive Session.

The next Covington Commission meeting will be a caucus meeting held at 6 p.m., Nov. 21 at the Covington City Hall at 20 West Pike St.

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