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Ky. organization prospers while cities are struggling; director’s pay at $315,000




LEXINGTON

Executives for the Kentucky League of Cities have taken trips and received pay raises while cities across the state face financial troubles, a newspaper report found.

A review by the Lexington Herald-

Leader found three of the league’s executives have spent more than $300,000 since 2006 on different expenses including meals and trips. The league is supported at least in part by dues, insurance premiums and loan payments from cities across Kentucky.

The newspaper found Executive Director Sylvia Lovely’s compensation package, for example, has been boosted by 25.5 percent to $315,000 since 2006. Lovely also drives a BMW SUV, which the league pays for.

Lovely says she believes the league is serving cities well.

“I think we stay in touch with those cities,” Lovely said. “If I could, I’d be in every one of them because my heart is breaking for them for what they’re going through. Our travel brings back so much more. If I could explain it to them, I would.”

The league provides free legal advice and lobbies on behalf of 382 Kentucky cities. It also offers cities insurance services and loans and provides training for newly elected officials.

But Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry, who serves on the league’s executive board, has written a letter to the executive board’s chairwoman, Richmond Mayor Connie Lawson, indicating he plans to call for changes, according to the newspaper. Newberry told the paper in a recent interview he thought league officials were “fundamentally good people who have made some mistakes in judgment.”

Lawson, however, said she thinks the organization is doing fine.

“There may be some things we need to look at, but I’m very happy,” Lawson said.

Among other things, the newspaper found travel by all employees in the organization last year tallied about $457,000.

The paper also found league executives have taken business trips to Monterey, Calif., San Francisco, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Alaska. The league also picked up at least $19,000 in travel expenses for spouses in the last three years.

Executives have also enjoyed other perks, such as tickets to the Ryder Cup, a Churchill Downs box and season tickets to University of Kentucky football and basketball games.

Lovely’s husband, Bernard Lovely, is coowner of a Lexington restaurant at which league executives spent about $21,000 in three years.

Chief Insurance Services Officer William Hamilton said he saw no problem with spending money at Lovely’s husband’s restaurant.

“We’re a business organization,” Hamilton said. “We do businesslike things.”

State Auditor Crit Luallen questioned the lack of spending oversight.

“The league is an association of government entities and they are governed by a board of elected officials who have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure the appropriate use of public funds,” Luallen said. “Their expenditures should be transparent and reasonable in nature, and those expenditures should be tied to quantifiable benefits to the public.”


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