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Schroeder's attorney gets to hear facts for dismissal

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By The Staff

SHEPHERDSVILLE - If attorney Thomas Clay was concerned that he had no details on why his client was terminated by the city of Shepherdsville, he had a lot more information to defend after the first night of testimony.

Mike Schroeder was first demoted last October as waste water supervisor and then reinstated with back pay only to be told he would be terminated on Feb. 1, 2010.

On Tuesday, the Shepherdsville Civil Service Commission heard the first night of allegations against the former employee.

Before testimony began, Clay again voiced his concern that Mayor Sherman Tinnell made a mockery of the civil service process by not detailing the reasons for the dismissal. Then, just minutes before the hearing, he is handed documents dating back to 2006.

Instead of canceling the night of testimony, chairman J.E. Lee said the commission would move forward, giving Clay a chance to cross-examine the city’s witnesses at a future meeting.

Maxine Jeffries, the city clerk, reported that in the past year, she had growing issues with Schroeder’s recordkeeping and willingness to cooperate in getting her needed information.

Schroeder was hired in 1996 by Tinnell and worked in the sewer plant before transferring for a year in the water department. He would return to lead the sewer plant and was the city’s highest paid employee at nearly $55,000.

As city clerk, Jeffries said she kept the correspondence between Shepherdsville and the Environmental Protection Agency. In 2006, a consent order was signed listing several items that must be done or the city could face a fine.

Last March, Tinnell assigned John Bradley, the city’s storm water coordinator, to oversee the compliance issue with EPA and directed all city supervisors to cooperate with the project.

Jeffries said she had a good relationship with Schroeder but he had trouble remembering to code bills for payment and for submitting his budget.

Last fall, Jeffries said the mayor asked for a list of grievances she had about Schroeder. Those included the lack of coding for bills, the lack of proper records on cell phone usage, the lack of turning in gas tickets, an unreported accident suffered by a city employee and permitting a part-time employee to have more than the allowed hours.

On a couple of occasions, she also knew that Schroeder was not at work during normal hours.

“It’s repeatedly gotten worse the last year,” Jeffries told attorney Jim Winchell.

Bradley said the city had been violating the 2006 consent order with EPA and Schroeder was responsible since he was the supervisor.

The violations of 2006 were similar to the 2000 violations.

Among the problems were overflowing sewage to the Salt River; having infiltration into the sewer system; no reporting of overflow or discharges to Frankfort; and lack of recordkeeping.

When Tinnell assigned the task of getting the city into compliance, Bradley said he asked Schroeder to work with him to get things in line. However, Bradley said that didn’t happen.

Since that time, Bradley said he has been working 40 hours a week and the city has employed the assistance of QK4 engineering firm to help collect the needed information.

Bradley said he worked on preparing an operating manual for the sewer system and is developing a management program.

The reason for the long hours was because recordkeeping was not proper. Many of the documents were thrown into a box and others were kept on a college notebook.

Facing a $25,000 a day fine from the EPA, Bradley said he has been able to avoid the possible $7 million fine by working closing with the federal officials.

He said the city might face a $33,000 fine and some remediation work at the park.

“I asked him for cooperation but I couldn’t get it,” said Bradley. “He was very uncooperative.”

To avoid further fines, Bradley said the compliance plan must be in place by November 2010.

Since 2009, Bradley said much of a $64,000 bill from QK4 came from work on the EPA compliance plan.

Winchell will continue presenting witnesses for the city at the next hearing set for 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 9, at city hall. The public is invited to attend.