Kentucky state Rep. Steve Riggs, D-Louisville, called on members of the Metro Council to improve regulations of their discretionary funds Friday, but warned if they don’t make satisfactory changes then state lawmakers will have to step in.
“If the policy that they come up with isn’t appropriate or has holes in it and doesn’t fit the constitution of Kentucky then we would have no choice but to make changes,” Riggs told WFPL News in a telephone interview.
The state lawmaker is concerned about a string of stories about council spending and specifically called out the practice of council members using their Neighborhood Development Funds to purchase food and other items for residents.
In his statement, Riggs alluded to an annual barbeque thrown by Councilman David Tandy, D-4, who spends approximately $5,000 for the “Willie B. Bright Community BBQ”, named after the former councilman who died while in office six years ago.
“Providing a barbecue or party just for the sake of feeding constituents for free does not fit that definition,” Riggs said. “If these events are allowed now, the council needs to consider changing their rules so that it conforms to the spirit of the Kentucky constitution and statute.”
Asked if there needs to be changes to council spending practices for neighborhood festivals, Tandy defended the event as adding to the quality of life in the district. However, he will review an opinion from the county attorney’s office about the purchases while getting feedback from constituents and is open to the idea of changing how the barbecue is funded.
“I look at this as being a part of the normal course of business in terms of our need to review our policies and procedures to see what we can do to improve on them,” he says. “We’re going to try to be as judicious as we can—as we always are—with the taxpayer dollars that we do have some discretion over.”
Riggs, who co-chairs the joint Local Government Committee, indicated he will also review a story by WFPL about the mayor of Louisville’s discretionary fund, which far exceeds council food purchases over the past four years and has little to no oversight.