In a surprise move, cranes and crews showed up in downtown Lexington Tuesday night to remove two Confederate statues from the old courthouse lawn, according our affiliate WDKY.
The Lexington mayor's office released the following fact sheet, explaining why they believed it was now permissible for them to move the statue's to temporary storage:
- Attorney General Andy Beshear has issued an opinion that the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission does not have jurisdiction over the statues of John Hunt Morgan and John Breckinridge, located near the Historic Courthouse on Main Street.
- In May 2003, then Mayor Teresa Isaac signed an application requesting that the statues be designated as Kentucky Military Heritage sites. However, the Urban County Council never considered, or voted on the request.
- Beshear’s ruling states: “In sum, we conclude that the Mayor was not authorized to sign the Applications and thereby consent to the designation of the Statues as military heritage objects without the prior approval of the LFUCG Council.”
- On Aug. 12, 2017, Mayor Jim Gray called for the Morgan and Breckinridge statues to be moved.
- On Aug. 17, 2017, the Council voted unanimously to move the statues.
- On Sept. 11, 2017, The Lexington Cemetery Trustees, at the request of the Council, gave conditional approval to moving the Morgan and Breckinridge statues to the Cemetery. Both Morgan and Breckinridge are buried at the Cemetery, which is also home to the graves of Union and Confederate troops. Negotiations continue with the Cemetery over the terms of that move.
- The Council was briefed on the Attorney General’s ruling today.
- The statues will be moved to a private storage facility until the agreement with the Cemetery can be finalized.
- The statues will be moved immediately to protect them and to allow work on the Courthouse lawn to be completed. The Courthouse is being restored through a public/private partnership. It will reopen in early 2018 as a Visitors’ Center and event space.
- The move and eventual relocation are largely being donated and paid for with private funds.
- Statement from Mayor Jim Gray: “We discovered the City Council did not authorize the Mayor to give up local authority to the state Military Heritage Commission in 2003. That action wasn't lawful, and it is void. The Attorney General confirmed our finding this morning. That means our local authority remains intact; this is a local decision, as it should be. This Council has unanimously supported moving the statues to The Lexington Cemetery. The Cemetery Trustees have voiced their conditional approval. That’s what we intend to do.”
Our affiliate WDKY contributed to this report.