Villa Hills residents to get chance to voice opinions about outsourcing police at Wednesday meeting
Sarah Beth Hensley, WCPO Digital
4:57 AM, May 8, 2013
8:43 PM, May 8, 2013
VILLA HILLS, Ky. - Concerned citizens are getting a chance to voice their opinion about the future of the Villa Hills Police Department at Wednesday's special caucus meeting for the community that has faced a rocky road over the last year.
The meeting, which will take place at 7 p.m., will focus on the outsourcing of the police department. Villa Hills Mayor Mike Martin proposed the idea to combine the city's seven-officer police department with an undetermined city as a cost-cutting option. The city's budget is tight and Villa Hills is looking for ways to ensure it doesn't have to cut corners in other areas of its infrastructure.
A March meeting about the issue erupted into a shouting match and Martin silenced the outspoken citizens. Concerned citizens armed with signs and strong opinions showed up to the city council meeting expecting to be able to voice their opinions on the controversial plan to merge its police force with another city's department.
However, Mayor Mike Martin quickly informed people in attendance that public comment on that topic would not be heard during the event.
While the city might see the law enforcement plan as a possible way to save money, some residents question whether it's a wise public safety move given a recent string of break-ins in the neighborhood. They want government decision-makers to listen to their opinions on the matter.
Villa Hills residents will be able to comment during Wednesday's meeting. Martin will open the meeting with comments and ground rules and then attendees have an opportunity to speak, but must sign in and keep their responses to three minutes.
Following public comment, council members will make statements.
Many Villa Hills residents are enraged that their voices have been stifled by Martin, who threated to arrest residents if they disrupted city council meetings.
"That is pretty typical of the mayor," resident Larry Heinzelman said in March. "If it's a topic he doesn't want to discuss, he puts the bosh on it. He doesn't allow freedom of speech in this city."
The controversy is the latest in Martin's troubled history in the Northern Kentucky community. In May 2012, Martine faced criminal charges after an investigation found that he burned city documents and violated ethics ordinances. Also, Martin performed electrical work in Kentucky without the proper license, which is a misdemeanor in the Bluegrass state.
Despite many residents' calls to remove Martin as mayor, city council decided to allow him to serve out the rest of his term after they failed to vote unanimously following his three-day removal hearing in October 2012. Martin's term goes through Jan. 1, 2014.
The meeting is scheduled to take place at River Ridge Elementary School, 2772 Amsterdam Rd. at 7 p.m.
Stay with 9 On Your Side and WCPO.com for updates as they become available.