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Open records bill wins final passage




FRANKFORT

Legislation meant to turn up public scrutiny of two scandal-stained groups representing locally elected officials won final passage this week from Kentucky lawmakers.

With no fanfare, the measure stemming from well-publicized scandals involving the Kentucky Association of Counties and the Kentucky League of Cities cleared the Senate on a 37-0 vote.

Gov. Steve Beshear must sign the measure for it to become law.

In a statement, Beshear said “a top priority of any taxpayer-supported institution is the ethical and pragmatic stewardship of public dollars.” Beshear spokeswoman Kerri Richardson said the governor strongly supports the concept behind the bill and will review the final version.

Under the bill, the two organizations would be subject to Kentucky’s open records and open meetings laws. It also would force the groups to follow strict ethics guidelines and undergo annual audits.

Another key provision would require the groups to post their spending, budget documents and annual audit reports on a public Web site. Both groups are funded primarily by public money.

Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said the measure would provide “more of an assurance that taxpayer dollars are used more prudently by these organizations.”

State Auditor Crit Luallen, who helped shape the legislation, said the bill’s passage will result in “greater accountability and transparency for two organizations that provide important services to local governments.”

Similar measures seeking to expose the two groups to greater public scrutiny were introduced in the House and Senate. In the end, many of the provisions were tacked onto an unrelated bill dealing with expenditures by urban-county boards of health. It was that bill that passed Monday.

The proposals were spurred by blistering reports last year after the state auditor’s office reviewed both groups. Luallen’s office delved into both organizations’ spending following reports by the Lexington
Herald-Leader
detailing questionable expenses.

The review of the Kentucky Association of Counties found that some offi cials indulged in a threeyear spending spree on booze, sports tickets and strippers. Luallen identified more than $3 million in excessive or questionable spending.

The association is a nonprofi t group that advocates on behalf of the state’s 120 counties and their elected officials.

Meanwhile, the state auditor’s review of the Kentucky League of Cities also turned up questionable spending.

The findings included high pay for the group’s executives, conflicts of interest in spending, undocumented credit card expenses and gifts from vendors, including admission to a Las Vegas strip club for three staff members.

The league’s main function is to provide insurance coverage for Kentucky cities and to do research and training for city officials.

Thayer, sponsor of the Senate bill that had been awaiting House action, said the version that passed Monday should prevent those types of abuses from occurring again.

“Everyone’s going to be watching,” he said.

The legislation that passed the Senate is Senate Bill 88.


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