Difference between revisions of "Citizens for Government Accountability"

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*cfgagov@yahoo.com
 
*cfgagov@yahoo.com
  
==January 2010 Newsletter==
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==Current Newsletter==
===Herald-Leader Uncovers Massive Personal Spending by KACo Leaders – Jody Jenkins on Board of Directors===
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This is the April 2010 newsletter from [[Citizens for Government Accountability]].
As first reported locally on WMSK, the [[Lexington Herald-Leader]] (LHL), via use of the [[Kentucky Open Records Act]], uncovered that the top five officials with the [[Kentucky Association of Counties]] (KACo), had charged $600,000 on KACo credit cards over the past 2 years.  These bills are ultimately paid for by state taxpayers.  These charges were for travel, expensive meals, gifts for themselves and the other board members, and associates of KACo.  Most of the expenses were travel and hotel rooms, some at $450/night, but also charges at two [[Louisville, Kentucky | Louisville]] strip clubs, and a $445 bill with a [[Lexington, Kentucky | Lexington]] escort service. It was also reported on WMSK that [[Union County, Kentucky | Union County]] Judge-Executive Jody Jenkins is on the board of directors at KACo.
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Some of Judge Jenkins’ lavish trips that have been reported on in previous [[CFGA]] newsletters were KACo sponsored.  We wonder how could someone with no political or business experience get elected judge-executive and put on the 34 member board of directors at [[Frankfort, Kentucky | Frankfort]] based KACo at the same time, unless you were a family friend of KACo Executive-Director Bob ArnoldOf Note:  Board members are paid $100 a meeting in addition to their local salary, plus travel expenses to KACo, and other meetings, are billed back to county taxpayers. (see next news article for further details)  
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===State Auditor Finds Several Inadequacies In Union County Fiscal Court Audit===
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The [[Kentucky State Auditor | Kentucky State Auditor’s Office]] released its annual audit report, dated 11-3-09, on the [[Union County Fiscal Court]] with the following findings and comments:
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*There is: A lack of adequate internal controls over the collection of and accounting for occupational/net profits tax.
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*A lack of adequate segregation of duties over revenues and bank reconciliations and financial statement preparation.   
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*Lack of adequate internal controls over decentralized receipts.
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*Lack of adequate internal controls over expenditures. Specifically: Unused checks were kept in an un-secure location. One vehicle was not properly bid for within code. Eight expenditures (including county credit card) were missing supporting documentation. One vendor was underpaid.
 
    
 
    
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'''The auditors report states'''; The control deficiencies listed above are considered to be significant and material.  An outline of the report was printed in the March 3, 2010 Advocate.  The full report can be read online [http://auditor.ky.gov/2009unionfc-pr.html here]. The auditor’s report states these findings were sent to Judge-Exe. Jenkins, and the fiscal court magistrates.
  
The Lexington Herald-Leader’s  June 28, 2009 article on KACo spending habits and it’s executive-director, Bob Arnold, embarrassed many elected people into long overdue action.  From the LHL’s  own time-line of events:  July 1st.; state auditor Crit Luallen announced her office would investigate KACo, and other agencies exposed in the LHL  newspaper articlesJuly 16th;  '''''KACo Executive-Director Bob Arnold tells several hundred local officials at the summer Kentucky Judge-Executives and magistrates conference (which Union County Judge-Executive Jody Jenkins attended)  in regards to the excessive spending at taxpayer expense at KACo; they need to; quote: “get over it.”  The LHL reported he then received a standing ovation from the county leaders.'''''  August 16th;  The LHL details a string of firings earlier this decade by KACo’s  top executive  that cost the group/taxpayers nearly $2 million in lawsuits.   August 25th;  Bob Arnold states he is under no pressure by KACo board of directors to resign. August 26th;  Lawmakers grill KACo and Ky. League of Cities officials over spending scandals reported by the LHL. After the hearing [[Adam Koenig | Rep. Adam Koenig]] (R) [[Erlanger, Kentucky | Erlanger]], calls for Mr. Arnold to resign.  KACo board members praise Mr. Arnold for his work.  September 4th;  Bob Arnold resigns as KACo Executive-Director, but is allowed by his contract with the board to keep his $178,000 a year salary through 2010.  (we are unsure whether he gets to keep the use of the agency car; a BMW S.U.V.) 
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===State Auditor Blasts Taxpayer Funded KACo For Reckless Spending And Lack Of Board Oversight===
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After the Lexington Herald-Leader reported on the excessive spending by KACo officials in June of ’09, the Kentucky State Auditors Office announced in July of ’09 they would do a full audit of both KACo and the Kentucky League of CitiesThe 3 page KACo audit, released at the end of October 2009, can be viewed in its entirety by logging on to the auditor’s website at [http://auditor.ky.gov auditor.ky.gov].   The following are some of the findings we have taken directly from the report:  
  
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'''Auditor Crit Luallen states''': KACo’s  ‘self-serving’ culture resulted in more than $3 million in questionable spending over the years audited (July ’06 thru June ’09).  KACo is a public funded non-profit, governed by elected county officials.  In 2007 and 2008 they spent $48,426 for board Christmas parties.  They also spent $43,000 for alcohol, $28,700 for ballgame tickets, $11,593 for birthday lunches, $10,315 on staff and board member gifts, $12,600 for the use of two Frankfort condo’s for one year, and $278,154 for legal defense of convicted government officials.
  
KACo is a state organization providing insurance and financing to [[Kentucky Counties | Kentucky counties]]. Purchasing insurance from KACo is not mandatory, however all counties pay a membership fee. In a  Sept. 22, 2009  meeting between Union County Judge-Exe. Jody Jenkins and CFGA Exe.-Director  J.C. McElroy; Jenkins stated he had never taken bids for the insurance the county had with KACo. ( Union County paid $196,359 to KACo in the fiscal year ending  June 30, 2009)Of Note:  KACo is the agency  that Judge Jenkins and the magistrates of the Union County Fiscal Court recently borrowed $1 million dollars from on behalf of Breckinridge Services, in order to help them finance their nursing home and assisted living facility.
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'''Board Pay''': The auditor’s office reported KACo paid $334,300 to pay board members for attending meetings. To clarify information in our last newsletter, the CFGA sent an open records request to KACo in Feb. of 2010 that yielded the following for the years 2008 to current dateTheir response stated board pay was $250/meeting for the executive committee, and the program board members plus travel reimbursement. Regular board members are paid $100/meetingUnion County Judge-Executive Jody Jenkins currently, and in past years, sits on the KACo All Lines Fund Board. Henderson Co. Judge-Exe. Sandy Watkins sits on 3 separate boards with KACo.  
  
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''Of Note:  KACo’s  letterhead states they are: “Working for you in ways you never imagined.”  After reading the auditors report;  you don’t have to imagine anymore.''
  
The Lexington Herald-Leader won a national journalism award from the Associated Press for its series that includes the KACo ordeal titled  “Its Your Money”.  Their investigative reporting resulted in the firings and/or resignations of several heads of state/county/city agencies. You can read the full articles by visiting their website at: [http://www.kentucky.com Kentucky.com] then click on the ‘watchdog’ link on their homepage. (It is great to see that not all newspapers are controlled by corrupt political parties and/or the local courthouse officials.) 
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===Traveling Man – And He Just Can’t Stop===
(info. for this story received via records request of u/c judge-exe office, year end financials, and herald-leader website)
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Beginning with his 2007 trip to the Czech Republic, we have tried to cover as many of the out-of-state trips Judge Jenkins and his wife have taken at taxpayer expense. We have reported on, or made mention of several (N.Y. City, Memphis, K.C.,etc.). Most recently; New Orleans, 1st week of Jan. 2010But these are only a few of the total number. The overlying question is: what did all these trips bring back to the county?  And how have county taxpayers benefited from the judge’s trips out-of-state, or even the constant in-state travel?  The next segment will hopefully help explain some of this and how the good-ole-boy system works at our expense.
  
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The Milkman and The Cow; (county elected officials training program):  The county elected officials association’s collectively lobbied for and got passed in 1999 H.B. 810, which became K.R.S. 64.5725, which gives elected county officials extra pay for going to seminars and training meetings.  The rate of pay is adjusted annually based on the consumer price index, with 40 hours of meetings equal to 1 unit.  A unit is worth $906 in extra pay in 2010.  The extra pay comes from county taxes. 
  
'''Notable quote: “If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformedIf you do read your local paper, you are misinformed”- Mark Twain'''
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'''Our View''': While most training is good, it is also part of the job.  They are already making an average of nearly $75,000 plus benefitsShould the taxpayers have to pay them extra to go to voluntary training throughout the state and country?  We reported in the Jan. 2009 newsletter that elected officials associations have voluntary membership, at a rate of roughly $1,000/yr. Union Co. officeholders do not pay their own dues. They have them paid by taxpayers out of their office expenses. (source: u/c year end financial reports/ expenditures by elected office).  Obviously:  The milkman is the elected official and the cow is the county taxpayer.
  
===Caution Ahead: Local Good Ole Boys at ‘Work’ With Your Tax Dollars===  
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===Connect-GRADD or GRADD Mis-Connected With Your Tax Dollars?===
If you think lavish spending at taxpayer expense only happens with the ‘Good Ole Boys’ in Frankfort, think againUnion County is deep in  ‘Good Ole Boy’ tradition.  However, not all Kentucky counties spend tax dollars in this mannerUnfortunately the state good ole boys always praise the local elected good ole boys here as ‘leaders’, in order to play the public as fools to be fleeced, by keeping them in office.
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We stated in our [http://www.freedomkentucky.org/images/2/2a/CFGA_July_2008.pdf July ’08] newsletter that the number of towers stated by GRADD officials to bring high-speed inter-net to the rural sections of the 7 counties it serves was under-estimated by at least half. This we learned from speaking with others in the industryThe idea of high-speed inter-net availability to all is a good idea that we agree with.  However, we disagree with the connectgradd program’s obvious lack of a complete feasibility study that would have polled rural residents on their likeliness to sign up for the service.  The following info is taken from a 1-14-2010 Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer article: Currently there are 1,160 customers of connectgradd spread across 7 counties.  At least 4,200 customers are needed to pay back the loans the counties took out for the project. The counties put up $1.2 million initially, then borrowed $1.1 million from the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority.  GRADD recently applied for nearly $2.1 million in federal stimulus funds, and agreed to match 20% of that amount. If the stimulus funds are received, 11 more towers will be built, bringing the total to 68.
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Of the few people we have spoken with who have connectgradd, most love it, but say their neighbors either can’t get it or have spotty service.  Our stance from the beginning has been that the better use of tax dollars would have been to work with existing phone companies who were already upgrading their lines for high-speed service to rural counties, covering the cities and surrounding areas first.  Assisting them to upgrade the rural areas of the counties would bring the service in faster, although it would not be wi-fi.  Currently AT&T, and others, have high-speed access in populated areas around rural cities here at a rate of $24.95 and $29.95/month.  Cheaper than connectgradd.  If connectgradd can not quadruple its customer base, then guess who is going to bail this thing out.  Union County Judge-Executive Jody Jenkins is on the board at GRADD.
  
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===Money Don’t Grow On Trees===
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In past newsletters we have covered the high cost of the multi-million dollar buildings built in the past decade in [[Union County, Kentucky | Union County]].  Beware of the politicians and their supporters who say most of the money came as a grant from the state, and cost us nothing.’  Nothing is free.  Money from the state is simply our state tax dollars.  It seems what our local elected officials haven’t done in the past 25 years is bring jobs here.  Instead they keep spending our taxes on large buildings, in a county with a dwindling population and skyrocketing substance abuse. The old adage, ‘If they’re gonna waste our taxes they might as well do it here,’  is just as silly.  How about don’t waste our taxes.  Don’t build things that require more state/local taxes to maintain because they are not self-sufficient.  No politicians name should be on any of these structures, since they were built with taxpayer dollars.  We do need change in political culture.  That always takes a change in elected offices.  Political change should be ongoing at all levels of government. If not, we end up with what we now have in Kentucky:  A billion dollar deficit, and politicians living like kings. 
  
The following information was gathered from our open records request to the Union County Judge’s Office for his county issued credit card records for the past two years, as well as the 2008-2009 fiscal year financial statementsIn all about 200 pages of county financials, credit card receipts, and travel vouchers.
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Your Property Tax Distribution:  Taken from the chart posted in the Sheriff’s office concerning where your taxes go. Remember the sheriff only collects the taxes, each tax board sets their own rate.   
*County Judge-Executive pay(Jody Jenkins):  $72,813         
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*School  61%
*2006 Judge’s pay (Frank Eiter): $64,144
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*State of Ky. 13%
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*County 11%
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*Library 8%  
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*Extension Service 4%
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*Health Dept. 3%. 
  
This figure does not include the extra pay Jenkins receives for being on the KACo board of directors.   
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===State Takeover of County Jails Via Privatization===
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As recently reported in the local news media, the [[Kentucky | State of Kentucky]] is considering a takeover of the county jail system to lessen the burden on the county taxpayers.  The first CFGA newsletter in the spring of 2006 covered the county jail system and the occupational tax put in to help offset the cost of funding a new facility.  While we are not arguing for or against a jail run by the state or the county, or even having a transport facility here. We simply are providing some independent information for these decisions whether made at the county fiscal court level or at the state level.   
  
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====Reasoning behind State Privatization====
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*county jails financially break small counties via personnel and liability costs.
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*Ky. already has 3 privatized state prisons with much lower costs than govt. run facilities. 
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*flat rate per prisoner and no employee costs saves state taxpayers money. 
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====Effect at the county level====
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*No need/excuse for an occupational tax.
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*county prisoners would be responsibility of state and private prison contractor, not the county taxpayer. 
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*current jail employees would have to apply for jobs with private operator.
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====Jailers position====
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By state law an elected jailer gets to keep their jailers pay rate until next election. This is true even if fiscal court votes to operate the jail as a transport facility.  Jailers position would become a transport officer at a maximum pay of $30k/yr. with part-time employees.
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====Of note====
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The last time the state tried to help the counties via a regional effort was with county economic development.  The idea is good. Union and three other counties belong to North West Ky. Forward, which does economic development for the counties.  The annual fee the county pays to N.W. Forward, around $30,000/yr., is a fraction of what it cost a county to operate this office themselves. ($150,000/yr. plus employee benefits). The Problem: Union County did not discontinue these positions, they simply renamed them from county economic development director to director of community development and director of tourism.  Thus no savings to taxpayers, but more cost.  Would you really expect anything else from local bureaucrats?
  
Current Union County magistrate pay is $15,000/yr. (to attend 2 fiscal court meetings a month, and to not ‘rock the boat’)
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===Electric Companies Rate Increase: More Is Never Enough===
 
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In our June 2009 newsletter we reported on the tri-state utility providers annual net profits, CEO compensation, and all of their requests for rate hikes even before the ice storm, and the costs reported by the utilities that the storm causedRecently the [[Kentucky Public Service Commission]] (PSC) has granted most rate increases, and now Eon (k.u./l.g.&e) has sent letters with the monthly bill showing a requested monthly increase of $11.70 for residential customers and $17.40/month for general serviceThe way the game is usually played between the PSC (3 governor appt. members) and the utility company, is the utility asks for a big rate increase and gets a smaller one.   
'''Judge Jenkins and Fiscal Court Traveling at your expense''':  2008 out-of-county travel expenses for the county judge, magistrates, and treasurer was: $11,439.84  with Judge Jenkins accounting for $7,500 of this amount.  January to August 2009 records show: $7,607.96  in out-of-county travel expenses with Judge Jenkins accounting for  $4,742.81    Of Note:  Joe Clements was the only magistrate to not submit out of county travel expenses for re-imbursement by taxpayers.  We spoke to him by phone to confirm this.  He stated he did not believe the taxpayers should pay his hotel and meals on the road to meetings/conferences since participation is voluntary. We agree with this line of thinkingIt is why we pay a state representative to go to [[Frankfort, Kentucky | Frankfort]](The magistrate pay at just over $15,000 is twice what other counties of this size pay.)  
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Our information requests of the Ky. PSC for the June ’09 newsletter stated they used a “complex accounting method” to determine if a utility company had enough net profits going forward to be profitable. The information request also yielded the following concerning Eon (parent company of Ky.Utilities): net profit for 2008: $7.1 billion ($986.9 million from KU/LG&E).
'''Cha-Ching!:  Judge Jenkins Has Taxpayer Credit Card – Will Travel''':    In past newsletters we have covered some of Judge Jenkins’ travel at taxpayer expense. The Czech Republic trip in 2007, New York City in May of 2008, and several more we have since learned of. All trips were organized through GRADD or KACo;  organizations that Jenkins was appointed to board member status soon after being elected county judge-executive.  
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Total charges on the county credit card with the judge-executives name on it were  $21,519.06  for the past fiscal year. Although not all the charges were travel expenses for the judge, the out-of-county charges were for hotel rooms, meals, etcHowever, local dining establishments were also on the list of food/beverage charges. Not all travel expenses/meals are by county credit card, but also by re-imbursement from paid receipts submitted.
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“The Great Chicken Caper”: No receipt jumped out more to us than one of the smallest ones Judge Jenkins submitted for re-imbursement. Just under $6.50 for a chicken basket, candy bar, and soft drink, purchased in [[Eddyville, Kentucky | Eddyville, Ky]].  Come on Jody!  Your paying yourself nearly $73k a year off the taxpayers, getting paid $100 a meeting to go to KACo board meetings in Frankfort, plus re-imbursement for travel, and you hit us for six dollars and change for a ‘blanking’ chicken basket meal. GIVE US A BREAK!  
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'''Questionable Expenses from the Union County Financial Report''':
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*Nutri-System  $156.45   
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*Custom Biker Wear  $1,050.95
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One business owner and friend of Jody Jenkins donated nearly  $500  to the 2006 Jody Jenkins for Judge-Executive campaign, and went from receiving no contracts with the county to receiving nearly  $96,000 in county contracts between July 2008 and June 2009.  (information taken from union county expenditures by vendors, and Jody Jenkins 2006 campaign finance reports)
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'''Fools Rush In''':  In the 2006 judge-executive election several people did political endorsements stating they were for Jody Jenkins. They neglected to say why they were for a candidate to run the county’s business, even though he had no business, management or political experience. Just a good ole boy connection to some locals with connections to some people in Frankfort, who are the problem.   With the current Judge Jenkins taking trips all over the state, country, world, at taxpayer expense via his connections to KACo, and GRADD, one would think the people who did these ads are feeling a bit foolish by now.  Surely, no-one with any common sense could consider any of this as ’leadership’ in the right direction.  The only good paying jobs that have been created here are the government jobs; two of which were appointed by the judge to do county business the judge used to do. (of note: alliance coal announce the new mine during the previous judge’s brief tenure).  We should mention that the fiscal court voted to spend nearly $850,000 to renovate the spec. building to accommodate EZ-Access and their 8 or so employees. 
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Re-electing people who misuse tax dollars, regardless of whether you like them or not, or are related to them, is the same as telling them it is okay to do so.  If we are not intelligent enough as voters to hold local officials accountable, then how can we expect change at any level of government.      Hopefully, the 2010 local election will provide a different outcome than usual, even though Judge-Exe. Jenkins appointed his own cousin, Trey Peak, to the county clerks position, who will oversee the vote count.  The CFGA directors have already contacted state and federal authorities to voice our concern on this matter. 
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===Occupational Tax: Who Pays, and Who Doesn’t Have To=== 
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Many have asked why coal miners don’t have to pay the occupational tax, when they are the only ones making good, stable pay.  Although we can not supply an adequate answer other than to ask the county judge or your magistrate, we do agree that the local small businessman, and those working for minimum wage, or slightly above, can ill afford to have one cent more taken from them.  The occupational tax brought in $910,434 to the General Fund, with $600,000 being sent to the Jail Fund. The Union County General Fund had a prior year surplus of $2,261,171. Not uncommon for this county, which has CD’s in its various operating funds which establishes a yearly surplus per account. (figures taken from u/c financial statement f.y. 08-09) Of Note: The extra pay to the three women in the judge’s office to administer the tax is no longer paid through the fictitious office of assistant county treasurer.  It is now paid through another office that doesn’t exist;  county tax administrator.
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===School System Budget and Info. of Interest Now On The Web===
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Their expected 2009 net profits were expected to be inline with ’07 and ’08 profits2007 CEO compensation was $3.7 million.
[[Union County Public Schools | Union County school system]] general information as well as their budget of revenue and expenses is now on line via our friends at [[Main Page | FreedomKentucky]]Total revenue from the 2010 budget:  $21,752,215.  Use the following exact link to open the page:  www.freedomkentucky.org/index.php?title=union county public schools
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===$80 A Barrel Oil In The ‘Great Recession’ ??===
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====Deep In The Heart Of Texas====
Most economists stated oil at $28 a barrel was ‘overpriced’ in 2004, when the economy appeared strongNow in the biggest recession since the great depression, oil is near $80/barrel.  Supply and demand figures have shown an overall glut the past two years, and oil supply keeping up or outpacing demand much of the past decade, despite what some in the industry state.  So why the run-up and continued high gas/oil prices with demand worldwide going down the tubes for nearly two years? As covered in our June 2009 newsletter, the Wall Street talking heads have blamed everyone from OPEC to storms in the oceans.  The real culprits are the Wall Street commodity trading firms themselves. Some of the very ones taxpayers recently bailed out. The same ones that were Obama’s biggest contributors (opensecrets.org/2008 campaign contributions). 
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We contacted state and city (Arlington) officials in Texas, as they de-monopolized electric companies 5 years agoA person can purchase electricity from one of many companies that operate in the state, that are regulated by the Texas Public Utility Commission, whose mission statement is: To protect the customer, foster utility competition, and promote high quality infrastructure.  Texas is one of 7 states with no state income tax. Their sales tax is 6.25%Now that’s political leadership!  We sent a letter of protest on behalf of rate payers to protest this latest rate/fee increase, along with the information on Texas, to state senator [[Dorsey Ridley]] and state representatives [[John Arnold]] and [[Mike Cherry]]. Without enough complaints from citizens to our elected officials, be prepared to pay more, more, more.
  
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===A $1 Trillion Stimulus or Just More Bureaucrats Gone Wild?===
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Many have argued the true need, effect, and actual job creation of the nearly $1 trillion federal stimulus.  While there’s no doubt over the pork barrel projects and massive overspending contained in the stimulus programs, there has been a much circulated alternative approach to the $1 trillion federal plan to fix the ailing economy caused by the Wall Street to Washington connection.  Here’s our take on it:  Some have said with nearly 300 million people in the U.S. it would be cheaper to give everyone a million dollars. If you limit that to those over the age of 25 with at least a high school diploma, who aren’t in jail, can pass multiple drug tests, our guess is the figure is closer to 150 million people.  To receive the million you would also have to agree to immediately: pay off your credit card debt, pay off your home loan and/or buy a new home and pay cash. – Banking and real estate crisis solved??  Pay off your car loan and buy a new Ford , GM, Chrysler and pay cash. – A much better way than having the federal government takeover GM and Chrysler.  Anyone over the age of 55 that gets a million would have to quit their job and stay out of the job market for at least 2 years. – Job crisis partially solved??
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====The real problem====
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Neither ‘stimulus’ plan addresses the problem that caused the crisis. More importantly, it does not hold those accountable that created the problem, prospered, then were ‘bailed out’, and now are prospering again at taxpayer expense.  Until the problem, the money flowing between the two major political parties and Wall Street is curtailed, and all are held accountable, then we are doomed to repeat this process until we get it right.  Obviously, what we need is new elected officials at all levels of government.
  
Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy recently released their research stating that oil/gas commodity speculators are now 50% of the positions in the futures market, since commodity regulations were eased by the government in 2000.   Now these aforementioned campaign contributors are lobbying the Obama administration not to impose more regulations on commodity trading.   This how we got into this financial/economic mess in the first place, the people our taxes pay to regulate and hold accountable not doing their job'''''Honest government regulations brings about slow, steady, dependable economic growth for all to prosper from. Without regulation we get market bubbles for a few years that burst and then the bubble blowers get bailed out by the government as repayment for all the campaign contributions'''''.  
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Don’t be fooled by congressmen who have decided not to seek re-election because they, ‘don’t like Washington.’  Public Citizen reports that 43% of the members of congress that have left office since 1998 are now registered lobbyist. And many more are un-registered lobbyists. Since giving themselves a pay increase in early 2009, members of congress make nearly $200,000/yrAs lobbyists, the average is roughly $1 million a year.
  
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===Notable Quote===
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“I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.”  -  John Adams – 2nd  President
  
What once made this country a great economic nation was that the average Joe had a good job, could afford the necessities of life, and many extras, and even afford to travelWith gas between 2 and 3 dollars a gallon, he/she can’t even afford to drive past the job they used to have before the plant moved abroad. With Obama’s hands politically tied to his biggest campaign contributors (Wall Street) can he really be expected to deliver anything meaningful from his campaign promises.  Maybe its not to early to start calling him Jimmy Obama, or Barack O’Carter.
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===In Closing===
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Thanks to all that have donated. Contributions are tax deductibleView current/past newsletters at the Union County Library, or on-line at freedomkentucky.org , or you can request current or past newsletters by emailing us at cfgagov@yahoo.com
  
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Thanks to all those who contacted us to express their anger over Judge-Executive Jody Jenkins’ wife being appointed to the state coal mining board over the former miners that had applied for the position.  We would have covered this issue in the January newsletter, but the January edition had already been printed when the appointment was announced.
  
If you don’t do your part to hold politicians accountable by contacting them to voice your opinion, then how high will oil/gas be when/if the economy really does turn around. You can log on to www.StopOilSpeculationNow.com  to email your support for ending speculative trading of oil/gas futures.  It is a great website, lots of information, setup by the airline industry. As high gas prices are breaking them too.     
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Don’t forget to vote on May 18th, and even though some elected officials have no competition in this election you can still let them know at the voting booth you’ve had enough. Simply don’t vote in those races. A low vote count is the only way you can let someone with no competition know you aren’t satisfied.
 
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'''Notable Quote:  “We demand that big business give the people a square deal.”  Teddy Roosevelt  11-15-1913'''
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==CFGA Newsletter Archives==
 
==CFGA Newsletter Archives==
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*[[CFGA April 2010 Newsletter | April 2010 Newsletter]]
 
*[[CFGA January 2010 Newsletter | January 2010 Newsletter]]
 
*[[CFGA January 2010 Newsletter | January 2010 Newsletter]]
 
*[[CFGA June 2009 Newsletter | June 2009 Newsletter]]
 
*[[CFGA June 2009 Newsletter | June 2009 Newsletter]]

Revision as of 13:52, 29 March 2010

Citizens For Government Accountability



CFGA is a non-profit organization that fights for accountability in Union County, Kentucky and surrounding counties. CFGA formed in the spring of 2006 around in response to public policy issues such as the county jail and occupational taxes, and how local taxpayer money is spent on a variety of public buildings. CFGA obtains its information through interviews, formal open records requests, and attention to detail. [1] The organization publishes a regular newsletter featuring the latest information about issues concerning Union County.

Personnel

  • Executive Director - J.C. McElroy

Contact

  • cfgagov@yahoo.com

Current Newsletter

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

State Auditor Finds Several Inadequacies In Union County Fiscal Court Audit

The Kentucky State Auditor’s Office released its annual audit report, dated 11-3-09, on the Union County Fiscal Court with the following findings and comments:

  • There is: A lack of adequate internal controls over the collection of and accounting for occupational/net profits tax.
  • A lack of adequate segregation of duties over revenues and bank reconciliations and financial statement preparation.
  • Lack of adequate internal controls over decentralized receipts.
  • Lack of adequate internal controls over expenditures. Specifically: Unused checks were kept in an un-secure location. One vehicle was not properly bid for within code. Eight expenditures (including county credit card) were missing supporting documentation. One vendor was underpaid.

The auditors report states; The control deficiencies listed above are considered to be significant and material. An outline of the report was printed in the March 3, 2010 Advocate. The full report can be read online here. The auditor’s report states these findings were sent to Judge-Exe. Jenkins, and the fiscal court magistrates.

State Auditor Blasts Taxpayer Funded KACo For Reckless Spending And Lack Of Board Oversight

After the Lexington Herald-Leader reported on the excessive spending by KACo officials in June of ’09, the Kentucky State Auditors Office announced in July of ’09 they would do a full audit of both KACo and the Kentucky League of Cities. The 3 page KACo audit, released at the end of October 2009, can be viewed in its entirety by logging on to the auditor’s website at auditor.ky.gov. The following are some of the findings we have taken directly from the report:

Auditor Crit Luallen states: KACo’s ‘self-serving’ culture resulted in more than $3 million in questionable spending over the years audited (July ’06 thru June ’09). KACo is a public funded non-profit, governed by elected county officials. In 2007 and 2008 they spent $48,426 for board Christmas parties. They also spent $43,000 for alcohol, $28,700 for ballgame tickets, $11,593 for birthday lunches, $10,315 on staff and board member gifts, $12,600 for the use of two Frankfort condo’s for one year, and $278,154 for legal defense of convicted government officials.

Board Pay: The auditor’s office reported KACo paid $334,300 to pay board members for attending meetings. To clarify information in our last newsletter, the CFGA sent an open records request to KACo in Feb. of 2010 that yielded the following for the years 2008 to current date. Their response stated board pay was $250/meeting for the executive committee, and the program board members plus travel reimbursement. Regular board members are paid $100/meeting. Union County Judge-Executive Jody Jenkins currently, and in past years, sits on the KACo All Lines Fund Board. Henderson Co. Judge-Exe. Sandy Watkins sits on 3 separate boards with KACo.

Of Note: KACo’s letterhead states they are: “Working for you in ways you never imagined.” After reading the auditors report; you don’t have to imagine anymore.

Traveling Man – And He Just Can’t Stop

Beginning with his 2007 trip to the Czech Republic, we have tried to cover as many of the out-of-state trips Judge Jenkins and his wife have taken at taxpayer expense. We have reported on, or made mention of several (N.Y. City, Memphis, K.C.,etc.). Most recently; New Orleans, 1st week of Jan. 2010. But these are only a few of the total number. The overlying question is: what did all these trips bring back to the county? And how have county taxpayers benefited from the judge’s trips out-of-state, or even the constant in-state travel? The next segment will hopefully help explain some of this and how the good-ole-boy system works at our expense.

The Milkman and The Cow; (county elected officials training program): The county elected officials association’s collectively lobbied for and got passed in 1999 H.B. 810, which became K.R.S. 64.5725, which gives elected county officials extra pay for going to seminars and training meetings. The rate of pay is adjusted annually based on the consumer price index, with 40 hours of meetings equal to 1 unit. A unit is worth $906 in extra pay in 2010. The extra pay comes from county taxes.

Our View: While most training is good, it is also part of the job. They are already making an average of nearly $75,000 plus benefits. Should the taxpayers have to pay them extra to go to voluntary training throughout the state and country? We reported in the Jan. 2009 newsletter that elected officials associations have voluntary membership, at a rate of roughly $1,000/yr. Union Co. officeholders do not pay their own dues. They have them paid by taxpayers out of their office expenses. (source: u/c year end financial reports/ expenditures by elected office). Obviously: The milkman is the elected official and the cow is the county taxpayer.

Connect-GRADD or GRADD Mis-Connected With Your Tax Dollars?

We stated in our July ’08 newsletter that the number of towers stated by GRADD officials to bring high-speed inter-net to the rural sections of the 7 counties it serves was under-estimated by at least half. This we learned from speaking with others in the industry. The idea of high-speed inter-net availability to all is a good idea that we agree with. However, we disagree with the connectgradd program’s obvious lack of a complete feasibility study that would have polled rural residents on their likeliness to sign up for the service. The following info is taken from a 1-14-2010 Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer article: Currently there are 1,160 customers of connectgradd spread across 7 counties. At least 4,200 customers are needed to pay back the loans the counties took out for the project. The counties put up $1.2 million initially, then borrowed $1.1 million from the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority. GRADD recently applied for nearly $2.1 million in federal stimulus funds, and agreed to match 20% of that amount. If the stimulus funds are received, 11 more towers will be built, bringing the total to 68.

Of the few people we have spoken with who have connectgradd, most love it, but say their neighbors either can’t get it or have spotty service. Our stance from the beginning has been that the better use of tax dollars would have been to work with existing phone companies who were already upgrading their lines for high-speed service to rural counties, covering the cities and surrounding areas first. Assisting them to upgrade the rural areas of the counties would bring the service in faster, although it would not be wi-fi. Currently AT&T, and others, have high-speed access in populated areas around rural cities here at a rate of $24.95 and $29.95/month. Cheaper than connectgradd. If connectgradd can not quadruple its customer base, then guess who is going to bail this thing out. Union County Judge-Executive Jody Jenkins is on the board at GRADD.

Money Don’t Grow On Trees

In past newsletters we have covered the high cost of the multi-million dollar buildings built in the past decade in Union County. Beware of the politicians and their supporters who say most of the money came as a grant from the state, and cost us nothing.’ Nothing is free. Money from the state is simply our state tax dollars. It seems what our local elected officials haven’t done in the past 25 years is bring jobs here. Instead they keep spending our taxes on large buildings, in a county with a dwindling population and skyrocketing substance abuse. The old adage, ‘If they’re gonna waste our taxes they might as well do it here,’ is just as silly. How about don’t waste our taxes. Don’t build things that require more state/local taxes to maintain because they are not self-sufficient. No politicians name should be on any of these structures, since they were built with taxpayer dollars. We do need change in political culture. That always takes a change in elected offices. Political change should be ongoing at all levels of government. If not, we end up with what we now have in Kentucky: A billion dollar deficit, and politicians living like kings.

Your Property Tax Distribution: Taken from the chart posted in the Sheriff’s office concerning where your taxes go. Remember the sheriff only collects the taxes, each tax board sets their own rate.

  • School 61%
  • State of Ky. 13%
  • County 11%
  • Library 8%
  • Extension Service 4%
  • Health Dept. 3%.

State Takeover of County Jails Via Privatization

As recently reported in the local news media, the State of Kentucky is considering a takeover of the county jail system to lessen the burden on the county taxpayers. The first CFGA newsletter in the spring of 2006 covered the county jail system and the occupational tax put in to help offset the cost of funding a new facility. While we are not arguing for or against a jail run by the state or the county, or even having a transport facility here. We simply are providing some independent information for these decisions whether made at the county fiscal court level or at the state level.

Reasoning behind State Privatization

  • county jails financially break small counties via personnel and liability costs.
  • Ky. already has 3 privatized state prisons with much lower costs than govt. run facilities.
  • flat rate per prisoner and no employee costs saves state taxpayers money.

Effect at the county level

  • No need/excuse for an occupational tax.
  • county prisoners would be responsibility of state and private prison contractor, not the county taxpayer.
  • current jail employees would have to apply for jobs with private operator.

Jailers position

By state law an elected jailer gets to keep their jailers pay rate until next election. This is true even if fiscal court votes to operate the jail as a transport facility. Jailers position would become a transport officer at a maximum pay of $30k/yr. with part-time employees.

Of note

The last time the state tried to help the counties via a regional effort was with county economic development. The idea is good. Union and three other counties belong to North West Ky. Forward, which does economic development for the counties. The annual fee the county pays to N.W. Forward, around $30,000/yr., is a fraction of what it cost a county to operate this office themselves. ($150,000/yr. plus employee benefits). The Problem: Union County did not discontinue these positions, they simply renamed them from county economic development director to director of community development and director of tourism. Thus no savings to taxpayers, but more cost. Would you really expect anything else from local bureaucrats?

Electric Companies Rate Increase: More Is Never Enough

In our June 2009 newsletter we reported on the tri-state utility providers annual net profits, CEO compensation, and all of their requests for rate hikes even before the ice storm, and the costs reported by the utilities that the storm caused. Recently the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) has granted most rate increases, and now Eon (k.u./l.g.&e) has sent letters with the monthly bill showing a requested monthly increase of $11.70 for residential customers and $17.40/month for general service. The way the game is usually played between the PSC (3 governor appt. members) and the utility company, is the utility asks for a big rate increase and gets a smaller one.

Our information requests of the Ky. PSC for the June ’09 newsletter stated they used a “complex accounting method” to determine if a utility company had enough net profits going forward to be profitable. The information request also yielded the following concerning Eon (parent company of Ky.Utilities): net profit for 2008: $7.1 billion ($986.9 million from KU/LG&E).

Their expected 2009 net profits were expected to be inline with ’07 and ’08 profits. 2007 CEO compensation was $3.7 million.

Deep In The Heart Of Texas

We contacted state and city (Arlington) officials in Texas, as they de-monopolized electric companies 5 years ago. A person can purchase electricity from one of many companies that operate in the state, that are regulated by the Texas Public Utility Commission, whose mission statement is: To protect the customer, foster utility competition, and promote high quality infrastructure. Texas is one of 7 states with no state income tax. Their sales tax is 6.25%. Now that’s political leadership! We sent a letter of protest on behalf of rate payers to protest this latest rate/fee increase, along with the information on Texas, to state senator Dorsey Ridley and state representatives John Arnold and Mike Cherry. Without enough complaints from citizens to our elected officials, be prepared to pay more, more, more.

A $1 Trillion Stimulus or Just More Bureaucrats Gone Wild?

Many have argued the true need, effect, and actual job creation of the nearly $1 trillion federal stimulus.  While there’s no doubt over the pork barrel projects and massive overspending contained in the stimulus programs, there has been a much circulated alternative approach to the $1 trillion federal plan to fix the ailing economy caused by the Wall Street to Washington connection.  Here’s our take on it:  Some have said with nearly 300 million people in the U.S. it would be cheaper to give everyone a million dollars. If you limit that to those over the age of 25 with at least a high school diploma, who aren’t in jail, can pass multiple drug tests, our guess is the figure is closer to 150 million people.  To receive the million you would also have to agree to immediately: pay off your credit card debt, pay off your home loan and/or buy a new home and pay cash. – Banking and real estate crisis solved??  Pay off your car loan and buy a new Ford , GM, Chrysler and pay cash. – A much better way than having the federal government takeover GM and Chrysler.  Anyone over the age of 55 that gets a million would have to quit their job and stay out of the job market for at least 2 years. – Job crisis partially solved??

The real problem

Neither ‘stimulus’ plan addresses the problem that caused the crisis. More importantly, it does not hold those accountable that created the problem, prospered, then were ‘bailed out’, and now are prospering again at taxpayer expense. Until the problem, the money flowing between the two major political parties and Wall Street is curtailed, and all are held accountable, then we are doomed to repeat this process until we get it right. Obviously, what we need is new elected officials at all levels of government.

Don’t be fooled by congressmen who have decided not to seek re-election because they, ‘don’t like Washington.’ Public Citizen reports that 43% of the members of congress that have left office since 1998 are now registered lobbyist. And many more are un-registered lobbyists. Since giving themselves a pay increase in early 2009, members of congress make nearly $200,000/yr. As lobbyists, the average is roughly $1 million a year.

Notable Quote

“I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.” - John Adams – 2nd President

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 , or you can request current or past newsletters by emailing us at cfgagov@yahoo.com

Thanks to all those who contacted us to express their anger over Judge-Executive Jody Jenkins’ wife being appointed to the state coal mining board over the former miners that had applied for the position. We would have covered this issue in the January newsletter, but the January edition had already been printed when the appointment was announced.

Don’t forget to vote on May 18th, and even though some elected officials have no competition in this election you can still let them know at the voting booth you’ve had enough. Simply don’t vote in those races. A low vote count is the only way you can let someone with no competition know you aren’t satisfied.

CFGA Newsletter Archives


See Also

References

  1. Citizens For Government Accountability Website