KSP launches investigation of West Buechel's chief - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

KSP launches investigation of West Buechel's chief

The probe is the latest in a string of controversies in the small city of West Buechel. (Source: WAVE 3 News) The probe is the latest in a string of controversies in the small city of West Buechel. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
West Buechel Mayor Rick Richards (Source: WAVE 3 News) West Buechel Mayor Rick Richards (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Kim Richards (Source: WAVE 3 News) Kim Richards (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Councilman Toby Clark (Source: WAVE 3 News) Councilman Toby Clark (Source: WAVE 3 News)
WEST BUECHEL, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky State Police have launched an investigation into the actions of a suburban Louisville police chief.

The probe is the latest in a string of controversies in the small city of West Buechel, and it surfaced on the same day that a city councilman accused West Buechel's mayor of breaking the law.

West Buechel Police Chief Gary Sharp is the subject of the investigation that KSP's special investigations unit is conducting, said Trooper Paul Blanton, a state police spokesman.

[PREVIOUS STORY: Former West Buechel mayor gave city loans to herself, others]

Blanton would not say what investigators were seeking. Sharp confirmed Tuesday that a detective was coming to interview him, and said he'd done nothing wrong.

West Buechel Mayor Rick Richards said investigators were looking into two allegations of misconduct against Sharp regarding seized property. In one case, accusations surfaced that Sharp had improperly stored a stolen vacuum that officers had taken in a traffic stop.

Richards accused two former West Buechel police officers whom Sharp had fired earlier this year for starting "rumors."

[PREVIOUS STORY: West Buechel Mayor pleads guilty to property code violations]

"The chief has been consistent and, I feel, honest about the vacuum cleaner issue," Richards said Tuesday. "I've heard about it ever since I took office."

Richards also faced two complaints from Councilman Toby Clark on Tuesday about city hiring since he took office at the beginning of the year.

Kim Richards, the mayor's ex-wife, has served as city treasurer since January without being bonded. Kentucky law requires a bond for any official who handles public money "for the faithful and honest performance of his or her duties and as security for all money coming into that person's hands or under that person's control."

"I just want the City of West Buechel to abide by the law, plain and simple," Clark told WAVE 3 News.

Mayor Richards said he didn't know about the state law until recently, adding that Kim Richards has since applied for a bond.

Complicating the issue is Kim Richards' criminal past. Richards has faced charges for drug possession and writing cold checks, and she has been convicted of a felony for second-degree escape. Most of the charges happened during the 2000s.

Kim Richards said Tuesday that the Kentucky League of Cities may not bond her because of her criminal record, but she expected her own insurance provider to supply the bond.

"I don't deserve to be persecuted for my past," Kim Richards told WAVE 3 News. "People change."

Mayor Richards said his ex-wife was valuable to the city, and denied her past created a problem.

"I've known Kim for over 20 years -- she's actually worked for my company for over 20 years," Rick Richards said. "She's done my books, my taxes. She's more than capable of doing the job."

Mayor Richards said West Buechel had also been without a bonded treasurer under former mayor Sharon Fowler.

Clark also criticized the mayor for not seeking city council's approval before creating a new code enforcement officer position. Richards has hired his current girlfriend to fill the job.

Richards said he added the position without going over the budgeted limit for city code enforcement, and he denied allegations of cronyism.

"I'll take the hit for that, if that's what people want to think," Mayor Richards said. "The bottom line is, the job is getting done, it's getting done by a competent person, and I think the city's better off for it."

Fowler loaned herself, Sharp and a former city employee money out of the city's general fund while she was mayor, a previous WAVE 3 News investigation revealed.

Fowler said she and Sharp had paid the money back, but wasn't sure about the third employee. Fowler said she later learned that was improper.

City credit card records revealed Fowler had spent money on Home Shopping Network and QVC, which she said paid for Christmas gifts for city employees and residents.

Copyright 2015 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.

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