The Herald Bulletin

Overnight Update

Local Politics

November 25, 2013

Lanane: Townsend cleared in 2011 investigation

Information not shared with Smith administration

ANDERSON — Members of Mayor Kevin Smith's administration said they were unaware of a 2011 investigation into allegations of conflict of interest in the Community Development Department.

A letter dated Feb. 9, 2011, from then-Mayor Kris Ockomon to Steve Priser, director of personnel and insurance, indicates an internal investigation was conducted into relatives of staff members Kim Townsend, Debra King and Beth McKenzie being placed in homes constructed under the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

Townsend, King and McKenzie were terminated by the Smith administration in 2012 over the conflict of interest allegations, an action that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said brought the city back into compliance with the federal guidelines.

Townsend is seeking to be reinstated to her job with the city and to receive her benefits from her years of employment.

Priser said Monday that there was an investigation involving several meetings but he didn’t recall an actual vote being taken by the internal investigation team.

“We found nothing that required a further investigation,” he said. “I was more concerned until it was learned an outside third party, PathStone, did the actual award of housing.”

Priser said he anticipated some “bad press” during the 2011 mayoral campaign in which Smith defeated Ockomon. He said there might have been the appearance that some people were being favored.

He said the available housing was advertised and the response from potential applicants was terrible.

Former City Attorney Tim Lanane said he looked at the state statute concerning conflict of interest and didn’t believe there was a violation.

“I felt that since PathStone handled the application process, I found it all right,” he said. “It didn’t fall into the parameters of conflict of interest under the state statute because a direct family member was not involved. It involved a non-dependent family member.”

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