Local News Politics

Beshear Speaks At KACo Conference

By Sheila Ash

The 36th Annual Kentucky Association of Counties Conference got underway in Louisville Wednesday.

Governor Steve Beshear spoke to the group about several issues including the costs of operating county jails.

Beshear says he’s been working to get a bill passed that would set health care rates for indigent inmates at or below the Medicaid rate.

“That bill has passed the House and that bill has passed the Senate just not in the same session. But I’m going to make a commitment to you here today and I want you to make a commitment to me that we’re going to call on the leaders of the House and the Senate this upcoming session to make sure we pass that bill in both houses and I’ll sign it into law,” he said.

Beshear says the money saved by passing the bill would go to fund other projects and services in the state.

The conference, which is at the Galt House, runs through Friday.

Local News Politics

Jails, Campaigns Likely To Dominate Conversations At KACo Convention

The Kentucky Association of Counties will hold its annual convention in Louisville Wednesday through Friday. KACo officials are hoping to move beyond a state Auditor’s report issued last year that uncovered lavish spending of public dollars by organization officials.

Executive director Denny Nunnelley was promoted to replace the outgoing director after the auditor’s report. He says some of the auditor’s suggested financial safeguards have been put in place, and the organization now has more internal oversight.

“…Hiring a CFO to oversee the expenses, a human resources director, we had a strategic plan done that we’re operating under and review monthly,” he says. “We have orientations for our board members and instructions on their fiduciary responsibilities.”

He expects the convention to draw more than one thousand county officials from across the state. Sessions at the conference will cover a variety of topics, but Nunnelley says one issue is likely at the front of most attendees’ minds.

“Jails are just such a burden and expense to our local government,” he says. “Every time we get together with them, they want to talk about it. The answer is always money, but there’s not enough right now.”

Governor Steve Beshear and State Senate President David Williams are among the speakers at the conference. Williams and Beshear are both running for governor, and Nunnelley says campaigning is inevitable.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for politicians to meet and greet other politicians and it happens at all of our conferences out in the hallways, before and after and such,” he says.

Another KACo event will be held in December to welcome newly elected county officials.

Local News

Transparency Bill Clears Kentucky House Committee

Legislation seeking more transparency by the Kentucky Association of Counties and the Kentucky League of Cities has cleared a House committee.

Recent state audits of each agency uncovered lax oversight and questionable spending. Among those applauding the House bill is State Auditor Crit Luallen.

“We have good people on these boards who are working hard to turn things around, and move forward, and restore accountability. This legislation will just insure that they are held to the same standards that we hold our mayors and judges to, that serve on these boards,” she said.

The bill, which would subject each agency to state sunshine laws and new ethical standards, now moves to the House floor. Similar legislation sponsored by Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown already has Senate approval.

Local News

Transparency Bill Clears Senate Panel

(Thanks to Stu Johnson, Kentucky Public Radio/WEKU, Richmond)

The full Kentucky Senate will consider legislation that would require that most state government spending information and other financial data be posted online.

The measure, approved Wednesday by a Senate committee, was sparked by recent scandals involving the Kentucky Assocation of Counties and the Kentucky League of Cities, which would also have to post such documents if the bill becomes law.

Committee member Jullian Carroll voted in favor of the measure.

“We’ve got a public that is skeptical, very skeptical, of government. I don’t care what party is running it, they’re just skeptical of it and i strongly believe in communication,” he said.

Panel member Robin Webb also cast a ‘yes’ vote but says there could be some logistical problems.

“The timeline is what concerns me… experience dealing with our government computer systems and various upgrades and potential budget cuts,” she said.

The bill would also cover state-run colleges and univesities, which would send their spending data to the Finance Cabinet for online posting.

Local News

KACo Audit Finds "Self Serving Culture"

From Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

Extravagant spending has been revealed in a State Auditor’s examination of the finances of the Kentucky Association of Counties.

For five years, beginning in 2003, revenues at the Kentucky Association of Counties rose 75-percent, boosting the annual budget to almost six million dollars. And from 2006 to 2009, more than three million dollars in questionable expenditures were made by the KACo board, management and staff.

“On lavish dinners, alcohol, sports and entertainment tickets, staff birthday meals and extravagant Christmas parties,” State Auditor Crit Luallan said.

Luallen added the exam also found weak internal controls, minimal ethics policies and no whistleblower policy, but no criminal wrongdoing. The 382-page report includes more than 150 recommendations for improvements, many of which have already been instituted. Former KACo director Bob Arnold resigned last month.

Local News

Metro Council Drops KACo, KLC Resolution

From WFPL’s Gabe Bullard

The Louisville Metro Council’s Budget Committee has killed a resolution encouraging Metro Government to review future payments to the Kentucky League of Cities and the Kentucky Association of Counties.

The resolution was first drafted after audits uncovered exorbitant spending by executives of the two groups. Representatives for the organizations addressed the committee Wednesday and said new oversight measures are in place.

The resolution was sponsored by Republican Councilman Kelly Downard who said he brought it to committee to ensure that the tax dollars used to pay Louisville’s membership dues in the organizations were being spent properly. After hearing from KLC and KACo representatives, Downard withdrew the resolution.

The head of KACo has stepped down and the head of the KLC will step down on January 1st.

Local News

Audits Planned For KACo, KLC

State audits have been ordered for the Kentucky Association of Counties and the Kentucky League of Cities.

State Auditor Crit Luallen says she’s alarmed at media reports of alleged profligate spending by top officials at the publicly funded, non-profit agencies.

“We’ve written a letter to each board chair laying out our legal rationale for our ability and authority to audit these organizations and we clearly believe that they should be held accountable to the public,” Luallan said.

The Kentucky League of Cities recently notified the Lexington Herald-Leader it would no longer respond to the paper’s Open Records requests because it doesn’t consider itself a public agency. The newspaper is seeking an attorney general’s opinion on the issue.