Whitesburg KY

Barely a hand slap for KACo abuses

Guys gone wild at the Kentucky Association of Counties rack up more than $3 million in questionable expenditures in three years. But unlike the guys gone wild at the Blue Grass Airport (whose profligacy totaled a mere $530,000 for a similar time period), no one at KACo faces prosecution.

Lawyers in the offices of state Auditor Crit Luallen and Attorney General Jack Conway couldn’t find an offense worthy of a criminal charge (at least, not one on which the statute of limitations hadn’t run out) in all that $3 million of partying hearty at KACo.

Why not?

Unlike the airport, where rules allegedly were broken and deception allegedly was practiced, KACo had virtually no rules. And there was no reason for deception because the party was open to all.

While the counties it represents are required to have ethics codes, KACo had no such code. So, behavior that might have resulted in ethics charges at the county level broke no rules at KACo.

And local officials among KACo’s guys gone wild could even skate around the official misconduct statute because service on the KACo board is voluntary and thus falls outside the definition of acting in their official capacity.

Taxpayers whose money got squandered on this $3 million spending spree have to feel frustrated that no one will face charges as a result. They have to be thinking to themselves, “There oughtta be a law.”

And they’re right.

There oughtta be a law that gets broken when these kind of shenanigans occur. The fact ther e wasn’t a la w broken this time suggests the need for expanding existing laws or writing some new ones.

For instance, although service on the KACo board is voluntary, the members would not be there if they did not hold office at the county level.

So, maybe the answer is as simple as revising the official misconduct statute to bring service on such boards under the definition of acting in their official capacity.

Another possibility would be to require organizations set up to represent local governments or elected local officials to have ethics codes similar to the ones local governments are required to have.

But whatever form the law we ought to have takes, it needs to hold guys (and gals) gone wild equally accountable when they abuse their positions of public trust in such an audaciously wasteful fashion as the folks at KACo.

— The Lexington Herald-Leader

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