Citizens for Government Accountability
Citizens For Government Accountability (CFGA) is a non-profit organization that fights for accountability in Union County 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
- Director - Peter J. Van
- Director - Elizabeth Freer
January 2009 Newsletter
Judge Jenkins' County Clerk Appointment
Since 2007 it was rumored that county clerk Billy Steve Peak planned to retire before his term was up and County Judge Jody Jenkins would appoint his own cousin, Billy Steve’s son, Trey Peak to fill the clerk’s position. Two other longtime courthouse employees also asked Judge Jenkins about the clerk’s position. It is speculated that it was a done deal soon after the November 2006 elections and no one else need apply.
Most Union County residents seem outraged and have asked; how could this happen? The answer is two fold. The county ‘leaders’ never adopted the state recommended anti-nepotism laws of 2004. If they had this appointment would be illegal. The other reason is on the county voters. The majority of whom continually elect the same two or three families to run the county over the past 25 years. And the county has been on a downhill slide ever since, in population and good job creation. Citizens always get uneducated results from uneducated people. That is the foundation for hiring people with an education. Citizens can not solely blame Trey Peak’s appointment on Billy Steve and Connie. Others told the judge they were interested in the position should Billy Steve retire. County Judge Jenkins has the only authority to make this appointment.
- Damage Control: Although the story in the Advocate regarding Trey Peak’s appointment to county clerk made no mention that Judge Jenkins had made the appointment, the story that ran in the Evansville paper covering the Jenkins appointment of the new clerk was pure political damage control. Few said that Jenkins had done a decent job as judge until this appointment. They must have already forgotten about the two trips/vacations he and his wife took at taxpayer expense (New York ’08, Czech Republic ’07), the jail loss being swept under the rug and the corresponding occupational tax to cover it, the bonus money increase, and no apparent plan to fix any of these taxpayer burdens. Not to mention the other issues we cover in this newsletter.
- Deflect The Blame: Many have said they plan to vote against Trey Peak in 2010. But if they vote Judge Jenkins back in he will probably just appoint Trey to some other position. Most Union County voters probably never think that far in advance, even on election day. That’s how the same families stay in office. The history of the Union County voting record is probably on Jenkins’ side. Union County voters have never been good at electing the most educated or experienced for the job, or removing them from office for mismanagement, tax increases, etc. But then what do you really expect in a county that’s education level ranks it in the bottom 8% (u/c school system website) in a state that ranks in the bottom 3 nationally. Here’s hoping we can change that image in 2010.
Big Paychecks: On December 12, 2008, Citizens For Government Accountability Executive-Director J.C. McElroy sent a certified open records request via the Kentucky Open Records Act to County Clerk Billy Steve Peak requesting Mr. Peak’s salary as clerk and the salary of his wife Connie. Mr. Peak signed for the letter of request but never responded, as required by law. On December 22nd the CFGA contacted the Ky. State Attorney Generals Office regarding this unanswered request. The atty. generals actions were the following day to Mr. Peak’s office. The following information was received from county clerk Billy Steve Peak on December 31, 2009, dated the 29th, regarding a request.
- Billy Steve Peak – Union County Clerk- salary $75,143
- Connie Peak – Deputy Clerk – salary $50,767.
It is easy to see why they wanted their son to have this position. These salaries are atrocious. To simply oversee the filing of documents, etc. Like most all elected position – No education or experience required. Compared to private sector jobs of this nature, pay would be 1/3 to ½ this amount.
- N.T.U. Weighs In: The National Taxpayers Union states that the reason state and local governments run big deficits is overpaying salaries and benefits far beyond what a regular business would pay. They state that govt. unions, better know as elected officials associations, have successfully lobbied the legislature for and gotten much greater pay and what politicians call ‘entitlement’ benefits for themselves, thus costing taxpayers millions more a year. The N.T.U.’s research and analysis shows in Kentucky the savings in state taxes alone would be $152 per person, or a net savings to the state govt. taxpayers of over $252 million a year.
Foot note: school teachers are the only government employees with a union. Elected officials have ‘associations’. (i.e. County Judges’ Assc., County Atty. Assc., Jailers Assc. , Clerks Assc., etc.) They all pay an annual membership fee (if they join) of roughly $1,000/yr. In Union County elected officials have their dues paid by the county taxpayers out of their office expenses.
Union County School System Salaries
Prior to the recent school board elections, the board saw fit to raise our property taxes once again. Fortunately, two new board members were elected. Hopefully they can bring a better measure of negotiating skills and common economic sense on behalf of the taxpayers and parents. Here are some facts received by Citizen For Government Accountability via an open records request of the school system central office.
There are 166 full-time teachers in the Union County School System. School board pay is $75 per meeting with a cap at $3,000 per calendar year. This is the only cost to taxpayers that is not an over payment. The school board has the same taxing authority as the judge-executive and magistrates. In contrast, the county magistrates make over $13,000/yr. each plus benefits. The fiscal court meets twice a month. All magistrates are full-time employed elsewhere, but the judge-executive allows them to claim full-time hours as magistrates in order to receive healthcare benefits at taxpayer expense. Thus making Union County magistrates some of the highest paid per capita in the state. (as reported to us via state auditors figures ’05-’06) Salaries of note are:
- Director of Pupil Personnel: $89,104
- Director of Special Education: $84,048
- District Technology: $59,138
- Instructional Coordinator: $84,048
- Assistant Superintendent/Treasurer: $87,663
- UCHS Principal: $83,203
- UCHS Assistant Principal: $76,538
- UCMS Principal: $84,048
- UCMS Assistant Principal: $75,440
- Principals at: Morganfield $78,333 ;Sturgis Elementary $77,174 ;Uniontown $81,270
Jenkins Occupational Tax
If the job loss wasn’t bad enough, former Rayloc employees that received severance pay found out when they received their severance checks that the county had withheld the occupational tax, making it an (un)occupational tax for those workers. Will Trelleborg be next? EZ Access laid off roughly 15 of its 20 employees back in December.
The job situation isn’t all bad. Ameriqual Foods (Evansville) hired nearly 400 workers in September. Sonoco Products (Henderson) hired less than 10 new workers at years end, as well as a few others in the Evansville-Henderson area that have added a few jobs. The new coal mines is still looking for workers who can pass the pre-employment drug screen. Sources report that 2 out of 3 people that have applied at the mines have failed the second drug test prior to employment.
Aside from taking the occupational tax from Rayloc workers severance pay, the current Jenkins administration has also increased the extra pay to the county treasurer and the two women in the judge’s office from $18,000 to $22,000/yr. All three women carry the extra title of assistant county treasurer in order to legally collect the extra pay for doing this part of the treasurer’s job. This makes the county treasurer an assistant to herself, in an office that does not really exist.
When the first Judge-Executive Jenkins hired the current county treasurer she was not qualified to hold office under state law. Representative John Arnold sponsored and got passed House Bill 403 in less than a year. H.B. 403 changed state law in order to hire someone with limited or no experience under the age of 25, provided they had an education.
In Comparison: Other small counties we spoke with that also have an occupational tax to help support their jail (the other option is a countywide insurance tax) pay no extra money to the treasurer to collect or administer the computer program that handles the tax, nor have they hired extra assistants or paid any extra money to anyone.
Bailout Country Club/John Arnold Arena
As first reported on W.M.S.K., Judge Jenkins is hoping to get taxpayer funding in order for the Union County Tourism Department to buyout or take over the indebted Breckinridge Golf Course/ Country Club as well as the Arnold Arena.
If the country club members cannot financially support the golf course, then why should the taxpayer? Taxpayers already partially funded the golf course in Sturgis. Kentucky State Auditors reports show government owned golf courses don’t make money anywhere in the state. They lose money, big time. One important question to ask is: What experience does the Union County Tourism Department have at successfully running or managing a golf course and or a convention center? The same as the fiscal court, NONE! Hopefully, a private buyer will step up. Taxpayers just spent $250,000 for a club house at the Sturgis golf course.
The Union County Fair & Expositions Center, (a.k.a. John Arnold Arena) is nice to have, but was overbuilt for a county this size. Since it opened, it hasn’t been able to pay its own upkeep or operational expenses without state taxpayer assistance. More importantly; If Union County elected leaders can’t even financially run a jail that is paid for without an occupational tax, then how can they expect us to reasonable believe they can run a golf course that is already broke, and an arena/convention center that has been bleeding taxpayer money from day one.
Every one wants a bail out. Haven’t taxpayer’s dollars been misused enough?