Whitesburg KY
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Affidavit accuses Knott judge

An affidavit accuses Knott County’s judge executive and other officials of paving private roads as part of a vote-buying effort, The Courier-Journal reported this week.

The affidavit from an FBI task force member was unsealed late last week in U.S. District Court in London. It alleges Judge-Executive Randy Thompson and the other officials embarked on a “coordinated effort” to influence the 2006 election by spreading free blacktop and gravel, building or repairing bridges and rewarding supporters with jobs, the newspaper said.

In an interview Monday with The Associated Press, Thompson said the accusations were politically driven.

“That’s untrue,” he said. “It’s coming from some people that just can’t accept the fact that 3,500 people approximately that are supposedly registered Democrats were fed up with the partisan politics and crossed over to vote the new ideas and visions I was bringing to the party.”

Last week, federal authorities armed with search warrants raided Knott County’s offices. Thompson said later he had “no idea why they’re here.” The affidavit was attached to the warrants.

The execution of the search warrant on July 10 came just a day before state officials planned to release an audit on county spending, according to Joe Meyer, senior policy adviser for State Auditor Crit Luallen.

FBI agents searched the offices of the judge-executive, the county clerk, the finance director and treasurer.

Thompson, who replaced Donnie Newsome in October 2005, suspected the investigation came from allegations that he traded road-paving projects for votes.

The Republican judge-executive, who owns a local radio station, denied the allegations. Thompson said the allegations stemmed from partisan politics in the predominantly Democratic county.

The county had a troubled financial history under Newsome, who spent a portion of his final term in prison after being convicted of vote-buying.

In August, the fiscal 2005 audit of the county revealed misuse of a judge-executive’s credit card and failure to report federal grant money, among other things.

The audit for the previous year also questioned more than $1 million in spending and concluded that at least $180,475 is owed back to the county. The audit focused special attention on the pool project, finding that nearly all of the $1.2 million budgeted had been spent since 2001 and the pool remained unfinished and unusable.

That audit also questioned $434,618 of Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, saying the county didn’t report how it spent the funding as required by state laws.

Luallen has said the previous Knott County audits show “serious mismanagement of public funds,” and that she hoped the next audit would “show marked improvement.”

The fiscal 2006 audit was released July 11.

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