CFGA September 2010 Newsletter

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This is the September 2010 newsletter from Citizens for Government Accountability.

Judge Jenkins and Magistrates Vote To Increase Pay 2.73%

Just over 30 days after his May primary win, Union County Judge-Executive Jody Jenkins recommended a 2.73% pay increase for all county employees. As noted in the 6-23-10 Sturgis News, Judge Jenkins could not get a motion to pass the pay raise from the magistrates in open fiscal court, so an executive session (private meeting) on the issue was called. Thereafter, the pay raise was passed by the magistrates.

While one can argue the amount of a ‘cost of living increase’, we do not contend that the hourly employees of the county that actually punch a clock deserve something. But so do all of us. At $10/hr. pay this is a .273 cents/hr. raise or $567/yr. At $15/hr. it is an $852/yr. raise. On a taxpayer funded county government salary of $60,000 this is a $1,638/yr. increase. At $75,000/yr. it is $2,047/yr. increase in pay. These are county officials salaries we have mentioned by office in past newsletters. As taxpayers, we all must be making a lot more money, or our elected officials wouldn’t be giving themselves a pay increase, right? They did get re-elected in the May primary, so they must feel entitled.

Bell, California Here We Come

When it comes to elected officials giving themselves pay increases it is hard to top the city of Bell, California, population 40,000. As uncovered via an open records request of the city’s payroll by the L.A. Times paper, and widely reported across the country, the 4 member city council had increased their own pay over the past decade to $100,000 each. They hired their current chief administrator in 1993 at $72k/yr., but his current pay was $787,637. His assistant manager pay is $376,288. The police chief pay of $457,000 was $150k higher than the police chief of L.A. They are currently under investigation by the state atty. general, former governor, Jerry Brown.

This kind of political behavior, whether here in Kentucky or in California, or elsewhere, is the result of the same people, the same families, the same political parties, being in office too long. Or for that matter, being there at all. Popularity doesn’t equate to good leadership. We have to wonder, with most people that don’t work for the government just trying to hang on to their job, we wonder how many got a pay raise from their employer this year or last. Of Note: Prior to being exposed for these atrocious salaries by the L.A. Times, Bell California was in the news for being the first U.S. city to replace all of its city workers by hiring a private company, thus saving taxpayers millions. Everyone now knows where the savings went. Certainly not to the taxpayers.

Corpus Delicti

A national survey released in early August 2010 shows that the average government worker makes twice what a person working a non-government (private sector) job earns doing the same type work, once healthcare and retirement benefits are figured in. How can taxpayers continue to afford this?

School Board To Raise Property Taxes- Again- To Increase Salaries

As reported in the local media, the Union County School Board has voted in salary increases and passed an increase in property taxes to do so. The tax increase will generate and additional $661,455. Minus collection costs, just over 90% of the increase will go to higher salaries, the remaining to the building fund.

As quoted in the June 30, 2010 Union County Advocate, school board chairperson Jennifer Buckman stated, “We are very fortunate to be able to give our teachers these raises.” What needs to be pointed out is the fact that their ability to give these raises comes solely from their ability to increase taxes. It does not come from anyone at the central school office doing anything to reduce operation cost, such as consolidating positions to save money the way all corporations now do that don’t operate out of the taxpayers pocket. Any savings could be used to give teachers a raise, or simply give the taxpayer a break. However, those working at the central office will get bigger raises than the teachers. We reported these salaries by position in our January ’09 newsletter, and they were more recently reported in the local papers. Simply put, the chiefs are making too much and the indians not enough. But don’t cry too hard for the teachers. They aren’t broke. Just not paid as much as they would like, just like most of the rest of us.

Taxpayer Can You Spare a Dime

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) 2008 rankings for teacher pay states Kentucky teachers rank 23rd nationwide in pay. However, they fail to consider cost of living difference between states, and state(taxpayer funded) teacher pension plans. In other words, it costs a lot more to live in the North East or West Coast areas compared to the South East. Therefore, teachers, carpenters, plumbers, attorneys, etc. all make more in big cities, and in other parts of the country because of the higher cost of living. The John Locke Foundation, which routinely tracks teacher compensation nationwide, ranks Kentucky teacher pay at 3rd best in the nation in its 2008-09 figures. This ranking does include cost of living costs per state, healthcare benefits and state taxpayer contributions to teacher pension funds. The national average teacher pension fund match is 9.1% . Kentuckians contribute 12.36% toward their teachers pension fund. [1]

Next to parents, teachers have the biggest impact on a child/students life. Higher pay, especially in administration, is not the answer to higher test scores in the classroom. Better accountability at all levels is needed. As reported in the June 30, 2010 Advocate, Union County Schools agreement with teachers has starting teacher pay at over $27,000, with a rank 1 certified teacher with 10 years experience currently paid $50,048/yr. based on a 185 day work year. Which is 2 less days than last year. Not many other careers can make this claim.

The High Cost of Public Relations in the Union County School System

The position of Director of Public Relations has been brought to our attention by several in Union County. Via a response from our records request, this position was ‘created’ in the 08-09 school year, based on a 240 day a year work schedule. This position currently pays $61,671, and with the recent pay increase it will pay over $62,000/year. In comparison, Henderson County Schools, which has a student population 3 times greater than Union, pays all central office positions based on a flat pay schedule. This eliminates bias and favoritism. Their communications coordinator (P.R. person) starting pay is $22,800/yr. based on 261 days worked a year, with a 1% pay increase for the first 7 years on the job. (information received from Henderson Coounty Schools human resources department)

Most newspaper editors would be happy with the Union County salary, with less responsibilities. In a small community such as this, a newspaper editor would think they had won the lottery with a salary of this level, and a public relations person would be working under an editor or manager. Now how can the Union County school board members justify this?

Of Note: Current Kentucky Department of Education figures show that Union County High School juniors ACT test scores lag the state average in all areas tested.

Courthouse Bi-Centennial Parking Lot – They Park, We Pay

Over a year ago the fiscal court voted to purchase the Todd furniture building (formerly the Davis Ford property), behind the courthouse, adjacent to the new million-dollar library. The purchase price in the mid eighty thousand dollar range was not a bad purchase. The building was in bad shape and needed to be torn down. At that asking price only the fiscal court, i.e. the taxpayers, could afford the property. Currently the property is used by the courthouse workers and library for parking.

As reported in the local papers earlier this summer, the fiscal court has voted to allocate $190,500 to develop the current parking lot into the bi-centennial memorial parking lot, complete with a monument and other amenities with parking for up to 25 vehicles. If all the money allocated is spent, and when hasn’t taxpayer money allocated to a project not been fully spent. Then the cost of the parking lot for the courthouse staff and the library will be roughly $275,000, or about $11,000 per parking space. In regards to these type of expenditures some of the magistrates usually state that coal severance funds and state grants are ‘free money’ to spend. We should all remind them that it is still taxpayer money regardless of were it comes from.

Campaign Contributions In Judge-Exe. Primary Reveals Special Interest Influence Now At County Level

If you think big business ‘special interest’ influence campaign contributions only happen in Washington, D.C. and the states’ capitol, then the following facts may surprise you. It may also explain how some may have the inside track to getting county government contracts.

In the May 2010 union county judge-executive’s primary race between current Judge Jody Jenkins and challenger Johnny Cambron. Mr. Cambron’s campaign finance report shows a total of $4,900 in contributions, all from himself, his family, and a few local friends, with all funds spent. Judge Jenkins raised $24,264, with all but roughly $50 being spent during the May primary. Some of Judge Jenkins ‘out-of-town’ contributors include, but are not limited to, the following:

The KACo Connection

In our January and April 2010 newsletters we did articles on KACo’s credit card and spending scandel that was uncovered by the Lexington paper and investigated by the Kentucky State Auditor’s Office, as well as Judge Jody Jenkins’ involvement with the KACo board he serves on. With all this still hanging over the organization, some who list their employer as KACo donated to the Jenkins campaign.

Workman-Like

Kelly Workman, a teaching assistant in Paducah, Kentucky donated $1,000 to Judge Jenkins this spring. Her husband, Mark Workman, donated $1,000 to Henderson Judge-Executive Sandy Watkins campaign. In the past decade Mr. & Mrs. Workman have political campaign contributions of nearly $80,000 of record. Their regular campaign contributions are to the campaigns of county judge-executives, state representatives and senators, the attorney general, and 1st district court of appeals judges. Mr. Workman lists himself as either V.P., President, owner, or partner of the following companies as per his campaign contributions of record: Geo-Tech Engineering, Marcum Engineering, Codell Construction.

Pay To Play

Codell Construction Management, James Codell founder and former Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary under Paul Patton, is the same company featured in the 2009 Lexington Herald-Leader on the Kentucky Courthouse Construction Scandel. (Read the article at: Kentucky.com/watchdog/law_and_morter) Mr. Codell’s campaign contributions over the past decade are listed at over $96,000. Geo-Tech currently has contracts regarding levee work in the county. Codell Construction has the contract with the county for the spec. building renovation to accommodate E-Z Access. E-Z Access/Home Care Products contract with Union County calls for the county to spend up to $1.7 million in improvements on the spec. building. E-Z Access has a 5 year contract rental agreement with the county with the option to renew twice or purchase the building. However, no minimum number of jobs created or to be maintained or minimum pay per hour is stated in the contract as a condition of the county spending taxpayer money to accommodate E-Z Access. (sources: campaign info. taken directly from ky registry of election finance website; kref.gov. e-z access info taken from contract with county via records request for same from u/c judges-exe. office)

The Trial of Clay Divine

On March 12, 2010 a jury found Union County resident Clay Divine innocent of all charges brought against him. Most were unaware of the trial or its outcome, much less the reason for his arrest. We all should be informed and concerned, as well as appreciative that a young man stood up to ‘the system’ and won, thus clearing his name.

We followed the events since late last fall, and have a copy of the accusations and arrest warrant filed against him, and have viewed the trial on DVD, which are of public record. A brief synopsis of events are as follows.

  • Nov 2009: Clay Divine has a conversation in a local restaurant/bar with a Morganfield business owner who has family ties in the county judge-executives office. Mr. Divine uses disparaging language in reference to County Judge Jenkins, and states that he plans to run against Jody Jenkins in the May primary. Three weeks later Mr. Divine is arrested by the Union County Sheriff’s Dept. for 3rd degree terroristic threatening, based upon the statements made against him by the Morganfield businessman. Mr. Divine denies making the statements other than referring to Judge Jenkins with a foul name and admitting to considering to run against him for county judge.
  • Dec 3, 2009: Mr. Divine’s attorney files discovery motion, asking to obtain the statement filed against Mr. Divine.
  • Jan. 8, 2010: Mr. Divine’s attorney states in a letter to him, “that he had been informed by the Commonwealth that there are not any police reports, investigative reports or otherwise,” in regards to his discovery for information against Mr. Divine
  • March 12, 2010: After hearing the testimony from three people; County Judge-Exe. Jody Jenkins, Deputy Warmack, and the Morganfield businessman, the jury finds Clay Divine innocent of all charges.
  • OF NOTE: County Attorney, Brucie Moore, was the prosecutor in this case. Mrs. Moore and her husband Charles, donated in 2006 and 2010 the maximum amount under law to Jody Jenkins’ campaign. (source: kref.gov/ jody jenkins campaign contributions) The Morganfield business owner, who we have decided not to name out of respect for his business, was the largest recipient of funds from Judge Jenkins’ May 2010 primary campaign, receiving $6,662.14 (source: kref.gov/jodyjenkinscampaignexpensereport)

After taking everything into consideration, we can not fully blame the local businessman. However, one reason people want to come to America is so they can freely speak poorly of their elected officials if they want and not be jailed, or worse. But when Union County, Kentucky Democratic politics are involved, we see what can happen. It is good to see the jury had the final say, and more common sense than the majority of voters here. It is unfortunate that Mr. Divine had to spend $5,000 in his defense.

Notable Quotes

  • “So long as we have enough people in this country willing to fight for their rights, we will be called a Democracy.” - Roger Baldwin – circa 1915
  • “Do not pray for an easy life. Pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” - Bruce Lee

In Closing

Thanks to all that have donated. Contributions are tax deductible. View current/past newsletters at the Union County Library, or on-line at freedomkentucky.org then type "cfga" in the local search box.

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