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KACo, League of Cities respond much differently to money scandal reports




LEXINGTON

The Kentucky League of Cities and the Kentucky Association of Counties are taking different approaches in responding to internal spending scandals.

Sylvia Lovely, the league’s executive director, announced her resignation last week. The organization that represents Kentucky’s cities before the Kentucky General Assembly has also taken other measures to shore up its operations.

But some Kentucky lawmakers feel association of counties hasn’t acted as swiftly or boldly as its counterpart has in responding to its own scandal, said state Sen. Damon Thayer, a Georgetown Republican.

“Consequently, it could take KACo longer to regain its legislative

footing,” Thayer told the Lexington

Herald-Leader.

Both organizations represent local governments when it comes to lobbying state lawmakers. They also offer governments legal advice and other services.

The newspaper has reported that league officials spent more than $300,000 over three years, and that KACo’s five top staff members spent nearly $600,000 in two years on meals, travel and other items.

So far, there’s been no change in leadership at KACo and the organization has taken a slower approach to some changes.

Some state legislators at a hearing last week told KACo president J. Michael Foster that they wanted “consequences” for employees who spent the organization’s money on questionable expenses, such as charges to strip clubs and a Lexington escort service, the Herald-Leader reported.

“It’s an embarrassment, not only to KACo but to the commonwealth,” said Rep. Ron Crimm, RLouisville.

Rep. Adam Koenig, an Erlanger Republican, last week called for the resignation of KACo executive director Bob Arnold.

Nevertheless, Arnold has said only that he’s not been perfect and during a July speech to local government officials said they should “get over it,” the newspaper reported.

Foster recently appointed a chief financial officer to be responsible for approving KACo spending — a duty that was formerly Arnold’s. KACo also has canceled staff credit cards, ended advertisements at University of Kentucky sporting events and required outof state travel reports go before KACo’s executive committee.

Foster said he’s waiting for a report from Richmond lawyer Robert “Bobby” Russell and a special audit from state Auditor Crit Luallen’s office to make further changes.

“I want to do it in a timely manner and don’t want to be in a hurry,” Foster said.

Meanwhile, League officials say they want to respond swiftly.

“We’re going to continue moving forward,” said KLC president Connie Lawson, who is also mayor of Richmond. “We’re not going to wait for the audit.”

So far, the league’s changes have included stricter oversight of credit card use; the end of paying travel expenses for employees’ and board members’ spouses; and no more giving gifts and sports tickets to local officials who are not KLC board members.

“I would say, right now, the credibility of both of these organizations hangs in the balance,” Thayer said. “And the actions they take in the next few weeks and months will determine their success … with the General Assembly and their members and the public at large, who ultimately fund both organizations.”


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