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Lobby for Letcher, other counties spends thousands on trips, booze and food




LEXINGTON

A central Kentucky judge-executive whose Kentucky Association of Counties credit card tallied hundreds of dollars worth of charges to strip clubs and the “Campus Cuties” escort service is facing additional scrutiny.

Spencer County Judge-Executive David Jenkins’ expenses during his one-year reign as the association’s president in 2008 has also prompted the state auditor’s office to consider whether it will get involved. A state senator who runs a legislative committee that deals with local governments also wants an explanation.

“People want answers,” said state Sen. Damon Thayer, a Georgetown Republican.

Top officials for the Kentucky Association of Counties, a nonprofit group that lobbies on behalf of Kentucky’s 120 counties, have charged nearly $600,000 in travel, entertainment and other expenses during the last two years, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported in a package of stories beginning Sunday. Jenkins’ expenses in 2008 were nearly $20,000, including hundreds of dollars in charges at various strip clubs and a local escort service.

Jenkins did not return a call by The Associated Press seeking comment Tuesday, but he has disputed the charges and claimed someone else used his credit card number. Now, Spencer County officials are reviewing expenses Jenkins has approved in his official capacity as judge-executive, according to the newspaper.

“He’s got a lot of explaining to do, it seems to me,” Republican Spencer County magistrate John Riley said.

Riley has requested receipts from any Spencer County credit card charges that Jenkins either made or signed off on. A judgeexecutive in Kentucky is the top elected official in his or her county government, but does not serve as a judge in the judicial sense.

Jenkins and the association have disputed the strip club and escort service charges with the credit card company. Jenkins, who as judge-executive oversees a county of about 17,000 residents, also ran up charges of $464 at Indiana’s Belterra Casino and $473 at Hooters Casino in Las Vegas during a National Association of Counties event. He has not disputed those.

Besides Jenkins’ expenses, association Executive Director Bob Arnold has spent thousands on meals, entertainment and gifts. The last two years, for example, Arnold has spent more than $5,200 combined on Christmas gifts for staff parties. The gifts included a $99 home theater device, an $80 tool kit, a $100 tent and a $100 Sony MP3 player.

“I have what’s called ‘Santa Bob,'” Arnold told the Herald- Leader. “I provide all those gifts — or KACo provides all those gifts.”

Arnold’s compensation is $178,080 plus an imported sportutility vehicle manufactured by BMW and country club membership.

“We have spent a lot of time and money over the last nine years to try to make us a really good business for counties,” he said. “We are operated by counties, for counties. Do we make money? Yes, we do make some money,” but, he added, that’s because KACo does a good job for the counties.

Each of Kentucky’s 120 counties pays dues — totaling about $134,000 — to the association, which also offers its members insurance and financing services. KACo also has income from counties’ payments for its services.

The KACo report comes on the heels of two recent investigations by the newspaper that raised questions about spending at the Kentucky League of Cities and the Lexington airport.

Three top officials at the Kentucky League of Cities had spent more than $300,000 on travel, meals and other expenses during the past three years. Airport officials had spent thousands of dol- lars on premium tickets to sporting events, a Hannah Montana Concert, Wii video game bundles, trips and $4,400 at a strip club.

State Auditor Crit Luallen’s office reviewed the airport spending and forwarded the case to the Kentucky attorney general, U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI. Luallen has said she’s “alarmed” by the counties association’s expenses. Her office is reviewing the situation and is deciding what role it “will play going forward,” spokesman Terry Sebastian said.

Thayer, the state senator, said he’s planning to call the city and county organizations’ officials before his local government committee later this year. The committee does not have statutory oversight, Thayer said, but it’s an “appropriate forum” for officials to explain.

“It’s not going to be a witch hunt,” Thayer said. “It’s going to be an opportunity for them to explain themselves.”


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