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City of Paducah settles with Guess, keeping previously ousted commissioner in office

Paducah City Hall
Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau
Paducah City Hall

The City of Paducah has settled an ongoing legal matter with city commissioner David Guess, fully reinstating Guess to the city’s Board of Commissioners after elected officials unanimously voted to remove Guess from his position in January over a charge of misconduct.

In a press release, the City of Paducah said both parties have agreed to settle by not pursuing further legal action.

“We carefully followed state law in removing David Guess due to misconduct and feel strongly that we were warranted in our actions. A local judge felt otherwise and issued a stay that prevented the removal of Commissioner Guess. While we respectfully disagree with the court’s ruling, we will move forward,” Mayor George Bray said in a press release.

Paducah’s Board of Commissioners voted unanimously in January to remove Guess from his office for misconduct on the grounds that he sent a racially charged text to a city employee in reference to a Black candidate for city commission on Election Day in November 2022. The vote followed a public hearing on the matter.

McCracken County Circuit Judge Tony Kitchen granted a restraining order and a temporary injunction to Guess in February, stopping the City of Paducah from enforcing its order to oust Guess from office.

Attorneys for the City of Paducah argued at the time that the definition of misconduct, which is left largely undefined in Kentucky’s constitution, is best defined by the members of local governing bodies. However, in his ruling, Kitchen considered Guess’s case to be reliant on the U.S. Constitution’s 1st Amendment right to Freedom of Speech, which Kitchen said protects “even repugnant speech” and supersedes state constitutional laws.

Guess was elected to his fourth term as city commissioner in November.

Bray said in a city press release that the city will move forward and, in doing so, will focus on achieving the Board of Commissioners’ goals for the community, which include “the aggressive support of a more diverse and inclusive community.”

An attorney representing the official released a statement by email Tuesday. Guess said settling the legal matter with the City of Paducah let the parties reach a quick resolution, saved taxpayers the cost of ongoing litigation and also allowed the community to “move beyond this chapter and toward more productive matters.”

“I recognize that Mayor Bray and the other Commissioners strongly believe they were warranted in their actions,” Guess said. “I just as strongly disagree but am thankful that we were able to amicably resolve the matter, despite our differences.”

This story was updated to include a statement furnished by an attorney representing David Guess.

Hannah Saad is the Assistant News Director for WKMS. Originally from Michigan, Hannah earned her bachelor’s degree in news media from The University of Alabama in 2021. Hannah moved to western Kentucky in the summer of 2021 to start the next chapter of her life after graduation. Prior to joining WKMS in March 2023, Hannah was a news reporter at The Paducah Sun. Her goal at WKMS is to share the stories of the region from those who call it home. Outside of work, Hannah enjoys exploring local restaurants, sports photography, painting, and spending time with her fiancé and two dogs.
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