The cowardice of the Lexington, Kentucky, city government

Workers inspect a statue of Robert E. Lee in a public park in Dallas, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The Dallas City Council voted to removed the statue however a last minute court injunction halted the work. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Workers inspect a statue of Robert E. Lee in a public park in Dallas, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The Dallas City Council voted to removed the statue however a last minute court injunction halted the work. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

In a surprise move, Lexington removes controversial Confederate statues

By Morgan Eads, Karla Ward And Beth Musgrave | [email protected] | October 17, 2017 6:46 PM

The city of Lexington carried out a surprise removal of two controversial Confederate statues from the lawn of the former Fayette County courthouse Tuesday evening and early Wednesday.

At about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, police arrived on Main Street and blocked off the area around the statue of John C. Breckinridge, closing one lane of traffic as workers arrived with crane equipment.

Within an hour, dozens of spectators had gathered to watch workers lift the statue of Breckinridge and then wrap it in tarp. The crowd occasionally erupted in cheers while many filmed the event and posted it to social media.

A Tuesday opinion by state Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat, opened the door for the city to begin the removal of the statues.

So far, not too much of note. But further down, the Herald-Leader tells us of the cowardice of the Urban-County Council:

“We’ve been working on this for quite a while,” (Lexington Vice-Mayor Steve) Kay said. “So many things had to fall into place. So many people had to agree to everything. And to have it actually happen right now is terrific.”

So many people had to agree to everything, huh? The Kentucky Military Heritage Commission didn’t agree, because the Council didn’t notify them in time for them to protest, or sue to halt, the removal. Attorney General Beshear’s opinion was kept a secret until the removal operation was already underway.

The city said Mayor Teresa Isaac signed an application in 2003 asking that the statues be designated as Kentucky Military Heritage sites, but the Lexington council never voted on the request. Isaac signed the application at the request of a private citizen. Isaac has not commented on why she signed the petition.

Beshear ruled Tuesday that Isaac wasn’t authorized to do that without the council’s approval.

But the city kept the attorney general’s opinion a secret until Tuesday night.

Neither the request for the attorney general’s opinion by the city nor the contents of that decision was discussed by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council during an open meeting Tuesday. The council was told of Beshear’s opinion Tuesday during a closed-door session. The council is allowed to discuss a limited number of issues behind closed doors.

Straub said they believed city officials could brief the council on the attorney general’s opinion because it could involve potential litigation, one of the reasons an elected body can discuss something in secret.

Potential litigation meaning, hurry up and present opponents with a fait accompli, before they can file suit to stop it. There’s more here.

That the Urban-County Council wanted the statues removed was public knowledge; the Council voted unanimously to have them removed and transferred to Lexington Cemetery in August, and the cemetery agreed to accept them. Both Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and former Vice President John C Breckinridge, the Confederate Secretary of War, are buried in Lexington Cemetery.¹

Basically, the Urban County Council had the statures removed under the cover of night, with no notice given to anyone. They chose to start the removal before the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission had a chance to file suit to stop it, and before opponents had a chance to organize a demonstration protesting it. I call that cowardice.
Cross-posted on The First Street Journal.
¹ – Kentucky never seceded, never joined the Confederacy. Early on, the General Assembly passed a bill proclaiming the Bluegrass State’s neutrality. Governor Beriah Magoffin (D-KY) sympathized with the South, but wanted no part of a war, while the General Assembly was more pro-Union than pro-Confederate. Unable to sway the legislature, Confederate sympathizers formed their own ‘shadow government,’ and declared secession, but the legal government of Kentucky never did so. Both the Union and Confederate Presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, were born in Kentucky.