Citizens for Government Accountability
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.  The organization publishes a regular newsletter featuring the latest information about issues concerning Union County.
- Executive Director - J.C. McElroy
January 2010 Newsletter
Herald-Leader Uncovers Massive Personal Spending by KACo Leaders – Jody Jenkins on Board of Directors
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 strip clubs, and a $445 bill with a Lexington escort service. It was also reported on WMSK that Union County Judge-Executive Jody Jenkins is on the board of directors at KACo.
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 based KACo at the same time, unless you were a family friend of KACo Executive-Director Bob Arnold. Of 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)
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 articles. July 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 Rep. Adam Koenig (R) 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.)
KACo is a state organization providing insurance and financing to 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.
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: 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.) (info. for this story received via records request of u/c judge-exe office, year end financials, and herald-leader website)
Notable quote: “If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed. If you do read your local paper, you are misinformed”- Mark Twain
Caution Ahead: Local Good Ole Boys at ‘Work’ With Your Tax Dollars
If you think lavish spending at taxpayer expense only happens with the ‘Good Ole Boys’ in Frankfort, think again. Union County is deep in ‘Good Ole Boy’ tradition. However, not all Kentucky counties spend tax dollars in this manner. Unfortunately 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.
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 statements. In all about 200 pages of county financials, credit card receipts, and travel vouchers.
- County Judge-Executive pay(Jody Jenkins): $72,813
- 2006 Judge’s pay (Frank Eiter): $64,144
This figure does not include the extra pay Jenkins receives for being on the KACo board of directors.
Current Union County magistrate pay is $15,000/yr. (to attend 2 fiscal court meetings a month, and to not ‘rock the boat’)
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 thinking. It is why we pay a state representative to go to Frankfort. (The magistrate pay at just over $15,000 is twice what other counties of this size pay.)
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.
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, etc. However, 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. “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, 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!
Questionable Expenses from the Union County Financial Report:
- Nutri-System $156.45
- Custom Biker Wear $1,050.95
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)
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.
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.
Occupational Tax: Who Pays, and Who Doesn’t Have To
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.
School System Budget and Info. of Interest Now On The Web
Union County school system general information as well as their budget of revenue and expenses is now on line via our friends at 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
$80 A Barrel Oil In The ‘Great Recession’ ??
Most economists stated oil at $28 a barrel was ‘overpriced’ in 2004, when the economy appeared strong. Now 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).
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.
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 travel. With 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.
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.
Notable Quote: “We demand that big business give the people a square deal.” Teddy Roosevelt 11-15-1913
CFGA Newsletter Archives
- CFGA June 2009 Newsletter
- January 2009 newsletter
- July 2008 newsletter
- January 2008 newsletter
- August 2007 newsletter