Plain City mayor files complaint against councilwoman

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 12:19 PM

Terrie L. Stephenson

PLAIN CITY — Mayor Jay Jenkins filed a complaint against Councilwoman LaFray Kelley, accusing her of colluding in a fired employee’s lawsuit against the city.

The complaint, lodged last week, will be handled by Councilman Brent White as mayor pro tem, Jenkins said.

The conflict comes against the backdrop of the political campaign in which Kelley has filed to run against Councilman Bruce Higley in this year’s mayoral contest. Kelley and Jenkins are first cousins, but apparently there is no love lost between them in the political arena.

Jenkins’ complaint contends that while holding her elected office in Plain City, Kelley has violated her oath of office by becoming party to a frivolous lawsuit against the city. The complaint charges that she also concealed the fact that she was involved in the lawsuit. It alleges Kelley conspired with the plaintiff in the lawsuit and fed to the plaintiff information she gained through her position as councilwoman.

The lawsuit grew out of a city action three years ago in which Janet Judkins lost her job with the city. In her lawsuit in federal court, Judkins said Jenkins fired her unjustly. Jenkins said the position was no longer needed.

Judkins had worked for the city for 13 years, overseeing the rental of the community room. Judkins said she was fired one day after it was brought to light by then-Councilman Brett Ferrin that Jenkins had been using the community room for his own family parties without paying for it.

Judkins sued after she lost an appeal with the city appeal board.

In a telephone interview Monday, Kelley said she thinks Jenkins’ complaint has no legal bearing and is just a rant against her. She said she has made no secret of the fact that she believes Jenkins was wrong in terminating Judkins.

“That’s not a conflict of interest, that is telling the truth,” Kelley said.

Kelley said she welcomes an independent investigation of the complaint against her, because it will bring public awareness to the kind of administration Jenkins has been running.

“The mayor seems to be under the mistaken impression that just disagreeing with him is a conflict of interest and, of course, that’s not true,” Kelley said. “I’m glad that I’ll finally be able to talk openly about this case.”

Kelley said she has not financially supported Judkins’ lawsuit, but has shared information from public meetings — information anyone is privy to.

In a telephone interview, Jenkins insisted Kelley has been financially supporting Judkins’ lawsuit and said he got that information from Judkins.

Judkins on Tuesday declined to comment about the specifics of the lawsuit or her firing,

She said Kelley did not contribute to the lawsuit. She said that Kelley, sometime after the suit was filed, handed her an envelope containing cash with no strings attached, because she was out of work and Kelley knew she needed some help.

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