Local News

Department of Fish and Wildlife Defends Louisville Bats Partnership

The Office of the State Auditor says it was unable to assess the “reasonableness” of a luxury suite purchased by the Department of Fish and Wildlife last year.

The $3,900 suite at Louisville Slugger Field was listed under promotional expenses in the interest of spreading awareness for the department and its campaigns. But Terry Sebastian from the state Auditor’s office says the benefits from the suite were unclear.

“Fish and Wildlife could not provide definite evidence as to which employees attended the events or which if any of their business partners attended, so the benefit of Fish and Wildlife using public dollars to purchase this suite is unclear to us.”

The department of Fish and Wildlife says the partnership with the Louisville Bats was a great way to market themselves to a variety of people in the community who enjoy getting outdoors.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Candidates for State Auditor, Treasurer Debate

The candidates for state auditor and treasurer talked about their backgrounds and professional records Monday evening during their respective debates on Kentucky Education Television.

In the Republican primary race for state auditor, state Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Burlington, and Lexington businessman John Kemper kept things civil and stuck to their stump speeches, touting their independence as an asset needed to be auditor.

The winner of that contest will face Democratic state auditor candidate Adam Edelen, who is running unopposed in the primary.

The Democratic candidates for treasurer, however, were slightly more confrontational during their debate. Challenger Steve Hamrick accused incumbent state Treasurer Todd Hollenbach of mismanagement and being inattentive to his job.

“About the only person who has had a worse year is Tiger Woods,” said Hamrick, a Hopkinsville businessman. “But Todd’s had the opportunity to play more golf than Tiger has.”

Elected in 2007, Hollenbach defended his record, saying that he’s run a cost-effective office and only played golf once last year.

The winner in that primary will face Republican KC Crosbie, a member of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council.

Local News Politics

Auditor’s Report Finds Improvements In State Finances As Well As Persistent Problems

(AP) The most recent annual audit of the Kentucky’s finances has found continued problems with data security and reconciling bank accounts.

But, the report from the State Auditor’s office also found an overall improvement in operations over the last year, citing 53 deficiencies, as opposed to the 70 uncovered earlier.

Auditor Crit Luallen released the first half of the annual statewide audit today (Thursday). It examined nearly $25 billion in expenditures for the previous fiscal year.

Local News Politics

Candidate Filing Deadline For 2011 Is Tuesday

Tuesday is the deadline to file to run for office in this year’s elections in Kentucky. As WFPL’s Gabe Bullard reports, interest in this year’s races is lower than it was last year.

There were many more races on the ballot last year, and that drew hundreds of candidates. And the posts up for election ranged from county clerks to Congressional seats. Just state races and special elections are on the ballot this year. But Secretary of State spokesperson Les Fugate says that doesn’t mean the hours before the deadline will be dull.

“You’ll see a lot of action, probably in the final days on the secretary of state’s race, the attorney general’s race, maybe even the auditor’s race,” he says. “We’re not expecting too many more filings for governor, but you never know who might be out there.”

Fugate further attributes the surge of candidates last year to dissatisfaction in the federal government.

“Federal offices were kind of what was driving a lot of the interest, and federal dealings were driving a lot of the interest in races in 2010,” he says. “That kind of reached down to all of the races at the local level. That fervor has dissipated a little bit.”

Local News

Cook Says Changes Are Coming To Passport

The board of directors of Medicaid manager Passport Health Plan met Thursday for the first time since an auditor’s report revealed inappropriate spending and conflicts of interest within the agency.

Passport CEO and board chair Dr. Larry Cook says an interim-CEO will be hired to relieve him of his duties in that position. He will remain on the board, but may be replaced next year when he gives up his vice presidency at the University of Louisville, which he has been planning to do since before the audit. Passport is part of U of L Health Care.

Passport receives public funds to manage Medicaid plans in Jefferson and 15 surrounding counties. Cook says the board will soon meet with the state health cabinet and determine whether any money should be repaid to the state.

“That’s a possibility,” he says. “We’ll work with the cabinet and if they think that’s an appropriate thing to do, I presume we’ll do it.”

Cook says the board will more closely review expenses and determine whether its lobbying efforts are appropriate. Two executives who were found in conflict of interest due to consulting jobs will stay on at Passport, but not without changes.

“In referring to consultant activities, in referring to travel activities, life will obviously change for all of our current and future employed people,” says Cook.

The auditor’s report also found that Passport had transferred some thirty million dollars to various partners, including U of L. Cook says while it’s possible some of Passport’s money was misspent, these transfers were legal.

“We feel we exercised all due process,” he says. “We do not feel we have violated IRS rules or Kentucky law and I’m certain that issue will be explored by the parties.”

Dr. Cook’s full statement:

Audio MP3

Governor Steve Beshear has issued the following statement:

“Attached is a letter sent to the Passport Board yesterday from Secretary Janie Miller of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services calling for an immediate meeting to address corrective actions in response to the troubling audit findings. It is my understanding that the Passport Board plans to hire an interim CEO.   Obviously a new interim CEO is needed at Passport, but any candidate for that position should be reviewed by the Cabinet to make sure that there are no potential conflicts of interest, allowing that interim CEO to make it his or her first and only priority to clean up this mess.

However, while a new interim CEO is important, it is also essential to have a top to bottom change in management and a total reorganization in the governing structure of Passport.  Any new management and governing structure must understand that they are accountable to the taxpayers and that they will be transparent with the taxpayers’ dollars.  Additionally, the Cabinet will be conducting a full financial and programmatic audit of Passport, and I expect the new management to be fully cooperative in that effort. Finally, we notice from Passport’s news release that they plan to begin ‘a review of all lobbying efforts to determine appropriateness for an organization that is established as an at-risk, provider-sponsored, 501(c)3 not-for-profit HMO.’  A review alone is totally unacceptable.  We expect a immediate freeze on any expenditures for lobbying and any other expenditures not directly related to medical care for Medicaid recipients until the Cabinet and new Passport management can address these issues.”