From the Republican Minority Caucus of the Metro Council comes the “Summary of 2009 Council Accomplishments and Metro Missteps.”
Let’s just dig right in by starting with the bad stuff, because that’s obviously more fun:
Lawsuits and General Mismanagement
Instead of settling a lawsuit between the Firefighter’s Union and Metro that started many years a ago over less than $10 million in funds, Jerry Abramson and his administration decided to fight, appeal and delay. Now, some 5 years later, Metro Government will have to pay current and retired firefighters more than $45 million, with the Mayor proposing more than $30 million of this settlement coming from new debt.
Metro Animal Services
A wide variety of problems at Metro Animal Services (MAS) were brought to light due to investigations by members of the Metro Council and lawsuits filed by various persons and groups within Jefferson County. During 2009 the public was made aware of the fact that Metro Animal Services didn’t have an written emergency plan of action for the department, the Director of MAS has entered into an illegal contract to sell animals and that the MAS Director was accused by multiple MAS employees of sexual harassment.
Despite the above along with lawsuits claiming illegal search and seizure, Mayor Jerry Abramson refused to remove Dr. Meloche, instead waiting for the director of MAS to resign effective December 31, 2009. It is our hope that since Dr. Meloche resigned of his own free will to pursue other ventures, the taxpayers will not be asked to pay a claim of unemployment as former Housing Director Kimberly Bunton did following the Metro Housing Department scandal that was uncovered by the Courier-Journal and later the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s State Auditor, Crit Luallen.
During 2009, Metro lost an argument with the Department of Labor and the Courts concerning the legality of charging police officers for personal use of their vehicle. Not only did Metro lose the challenge, they had to repay the funds already withheld from the officers’ paychecks. It was found charging for personal use was a violation of the police union contract. The Mayor had implemented the new charge in an effort to generate revenue for Metro during a time of reduced revenues.
Broken Policies for Special Friends
The Metro Auditor noted and the Government Oversight Committee investigated special treatment given to two members of the Mayor’s administration. This finding was part of a regular Payroll Audit conducted by the Office of the Internal Audit and found that Ms. Jane Driskell, Mr. Rick Johnstone and one other employee were paid a total of $36,444 for either termination compensation and/or service time purchase. Ms. Driskell and Mr. Johnstone were given this special treatment when they retired from Metro Government at the end of 2008. The Mayor’s Office defended the actions but did later acknowledge that changes were needed to clarify the policy along with providing a policy change if any future actions are taken. Both Driskell and Johnstone were rehired by Metro Government in early 2009.
In addition, the audit disclosed payments made to Police Chief White to purchase retirement years in accordance with a letter dated December, 2002 from the Mayor Elect. The amounts were increased in 2007. Additionally, recently the audit disclosed the Police Chief was allowed to begin cashing out up to 20 leave days per year. None of these benefits are covered under present policies.
Kentucky League of Cities / Kentucky Association of Counties
The Metro Council called both the Kentucky league of Cities (KLC) and Kentucky Association of Counties (KACo) to explain the scandals that had been brought to light by the Lexington Herald Leader. Council members Downard (District 16) and Hamilton (District 5) along with others pushed representatives for examples of how the two organizations were fixing reported problems and how they would avoid future scandals. Earlier this month, State Auditor Crit Luallen released her report on waste, fraud and abuse within KLC. In response to this report, Councilman Downard proposed a resolution calling for the reduction of dues by half and for Metro Government to seek approximately $40,000 in previous dues back from KLC. Metro Mayor Abramson sits on the board for KLC and has failed to call for such action, instead opting to keep the review in-house.
All the positive stuff or whatever is after the jump, in case you want to read about it…