Auditor Releases SE Bullitt Fire District Report

State Auditor of Public Accounts Adam Edelen just a bit ago released an examination of the Southeast Bullitt Fire District finding weaknesses in financial controls.

Edelen is especially worked up because he loves the publicity and is going to great lengths to point out that the fire department is in violation of a special district reform law for which he takes credit.

Here’s a release on it all:

Auditor Adam Edelen today released a special examination of the Southeast Bullitt Fire Protection District, finding lax controls and a lack of analysis of its finances while levying property taxes at the highest allowable rate.

The Auditor’s office began an examination last fall after receiving allegations concerning certain financial activity at the District. The District and the Southeast Bullitt Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, Inc. have come under public scrutiny in recent months for a number of issues. The District has contracted with the Department to provide fire protection services in Bullitt County, just south of Louisville.

Other agencies are said to be investigating concerns at the Department and there appears to be confusion about the nature of the contractual relationship and roles of management between the two entities. Auditors found that unclear state statutes may partially be to blame.

“Antagonistic personalities, consistently high property tax rates, a lack of transparency, confusion in state law and seeming conflicts of interest have led to valid concerns among taxpayers in Bullitt County,” Auditor Edelen said. “Although auditors did not find potential criminal activity based on the allegations we received and investigated, we share those concerns and call on officials there to straighten this mess out.”

The District board has the authority to levy an annual property tax, not to exceed “ten cents ($0.10) per one hundred ($100) of valuation as assessed for county taxes.” Auditors found the District has levied taxes at the maximum allowed by statute since at least 2008 without conducting any analyses of the actual costs of future needs associated with providing fire protection services to District residents.

As a result, the Department held over $2.7 million in funds as of Oct. 31, 2014, which appears to have led to concerns about financial management.

Three of the six District board members interviewed said they believed the Department could operate with less tax revenue if rates were lowered, while another stated “honestly I don’t know.”

Another source of concern among the public is an apparent conflict of interest, with the Department Chief also serving as District board chair since approximately 2000. Given the authority of the District board to establish the tax rate each year and the contract between the Department and District, in which the Department receives the net proceeds of taxes collected, concerns exist that the District board has been lax in its responsibility to taxpayers as it may be placing interests of the Department above those of the taxpayers.

Despite the appearance, statutory language does not restrict eligibility to prohibit the fire chief, who serves as head of the Department, or other Department board members, from being eligible for election to the District board or from serving as its chairman.

Auditors recommend state legislators study provisions of KRS Chapter 75 and consider making a clear distinction between management of each organization.

The scope of the examination was to address concerns presented to the office regarding the District and not to examine financial transactions or other records of the Department. A number of matters related to the Department, however, were brought to the auditors’ attention during the examination.

Of significant concern is that the Department has not registered as a Special Purpose Governmental Entity (SPGE) with the Department for Local Government (DLG), as required by state law. Auditor Edelen in 2013 shepherded a bipartisan bill through the legislature to bring greater accountability and transparency to special districts, including fire departments.

The Department has received more than $4.4 million in public funds since 2010 and as such, is required to annually file certain financial reports with DLG.

“This is case-in-point why I fought to reform special districts,” Auditor Edelen said. “If the Department wants to argue it’s a private entity exempt from the tenets of House Bill 1, they need to go ahead and return the public money they’ve received from taxpayers,” Auditor Edelen said. “Otherwise, they need to get square with the requirements in short order.”

Auditors also found the Department awarded $5,200 in annual Christmas bonuses to employees and select volunteers in violation of state law and awarded the Chief’s spouse $63,000 in payment for bookkeeping and secretarial services without requiring documentation of the hours worked.

Click here (Warning: External PDF Link) to access the full report.

Sad Thoughts On Jim King’s Passing

My heart goes out to Jim King’s family. Especially to his kids, grandkids and wife, Debbie.

Have always been a critic of Jim’s and always will be. But he was the type of person, whether you liked him or not, to take it on the chin. Most of that has to do with Debbie, the real star of the show. We had coffee (“grabbed a Coke”) just a few weeks ago (update: turns out that was in late October… time flies) and the only thing he could talk about was her. That says a lot about him.

He may have been a complete asshole and at times inconsiderate of anyone and anything but control a lot of the time. But you don’t get to keep someone like Debbie around if there’s not something redeeming deep inside. So remember that, critics.

Hopefully the city will take time out of politicking to show that family some love.


Quotes from the entire Metro Council…

“The passing of President King causes a great loss for our city. We will miss him and I am praying for his family.” — David James District 6, Majority Leader

“I always appreciated the fact that regardless of the issue, I knew whenever I approached Jim, we could have an open and honest conversation. I enjoyed working with him and his passion for the City of Louisville was evident to everyone who knew him. We will continue to keep his family in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.” — Kevin Kramer, District 11 Chair Minority Caucus

“My thoughts and prayers are with Jim’s family. The community lost a very dedicated public servant who always had the best interest of the citizens at heart. Jim’s knowledge of finance and his budget expertise were invaluable to the city. There was the other side of Jim that most people were never fortunate enough to see. Jim took a personal interest in people and causes he believed in. It was not uncommon for Jim to personally donate or just lend an ear or suggestion to causes and people he valued. While I will miss President King, most of all I will miss “Jim”.” — Madonna Flood, District 24 Vice Chair Majority Caucus

“President King’s institutional knowledge, humor, and the way he handled issues simply cannot be replaced. We are grieving for the loss for his family and our city.” — Marilyn Parker, District 18 Vice Chair Minority Caucus

“I am greatly saddened about the loss of President King. Jim was a zealous advocate for all of Jefferson County’s residents. His impact will live on forever. This is a great loss for his district, and for the entire city of Louisville.” — Jessica Green, District 1

“I like many others are saddened by the passing of President King. Over the years, we shared the area of Newburg Road and he and I were able to do many things to improve my district and his. His leadership helped improve the lives of many others in Metro Louisville. My thoughts and prayers are with the King family.” — Barbara Shanklin, District 2

“I was so sorry to hear of President King’s passing because he was a person who made a difference in my life on the Metro Council. He was always there to listen. Whether it was working with a Council member on a committee assignment or helping with a project or issue in my district, he was dedicated to do his best to help others. I considered him a personal friend. This world is a better place because of President Jim King. He will be missed by his colleagues, and all of Metro Louisville. I will continue to keep President Jim King’s family lifted in prayer. They have my heartfelt sympathy. — Mary C. Woolridge, District 3

“We have lost a tremendous civic and business leader in Jim King. Whether it was his work on the Metro Council or in his philanthropic efforts through King Southern Bank, Jim has left his mark on our city and we are better for it. Carolyn and I extend our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to Debbie, Jimmie and Katie and the rest of the King family in their time of bereavement.” — David Tandy, District 4

“Jim loved two things very deeply: his family and his community. We all benefitted from his dedicated leadership on this Council having elected him as president an unprecedented number of times. His professional expertise was a tremendous benefit to this city and the decisions he made for this city will be felt for years to come. He really served in a bi-partisan manner and do what was best for the entire community. He was kind and generous to a fault. I will miss his wit, sense of humor, the twinkle in his eye and his smile. Many agencies in this community certainly benefitted from his thoughtful leadership and financial expertise as we recovered from the recession and made sound decisions for Metro Government and all of Louisville. The Council and this community have experienced a tremendous loss. We have lost a friend, a colleague, a visionary leader and true public servant. My heartfelt thoughts and sympathy are with his family and colleagues at this difficult time.” — Cheri Bryant Hamilton, District 5

“As a someone who has had the opportunity to know many within the King family my thoughts and prayers are with them during what is sure to be a difficult time. I looked forward to working with Jim on the council and hope to continue working in support of many of his goals for the citizens of Louisville. He was an admired leader in this community and will be missed.” — Angela Leet, District 7

“As a Council leader, Jim King was an optimistic “let’s get it done” kind of guy.” — Tom Owen, District 8

“I was saddened to hear of the passing of Council President Jim King. I admired President King’s determination to make the Council an effective, independent legislative body. We can honor his memory by carrying on that work. My thoughts are with his wife, Debbie, his children, grandchildren and his many friends throughout Louisville at this difficult time.” — Bill Hollander, District 9

“Under Jim’s leadership, the Council grew in stature and professionalism. More importantly, Jim truly cared about all parts of our community. Most importantly, he was a good friend and colleague. Metro will miss him, District 10 will miss him and I certainly will miss him.” — Rick Blackwell, District 12

“I am shocked to lose our Council President, friend and colleague today. He was a brilliant man that was well respected in our community. This is a very sad day for our city as well as the King family.” — Vicki Aubrey Welch, District 13

“Jim was a kind and compassionate man who will be sorely missed. He has been the glue that held this Council together for the last four years. His ability to work fairly with members on both sides of the aisle was unmatched and the void created without him is something we can only hope to bridge in the coming days. He was a dear friend and colleague and my heart goes out to his family in this most difficult time.” — Cindi Fowler, District 14

“Jim used his talents and leadership to better Metro Louisville and always had the community in the forefront of his mind. His steady leadership helped the Metro Council grow into a stronger legislative body; but he was much more than Metro Council President. Jim lit up when talking about his family, especially his grandchildren. He never missed their ball games and even coached little league. His presence will truly be missed. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and all of his loved ones.” — Marianne Butler, District 15

“Today I’ve lost a dear friend. The Metro Council has lost a great leader, and Metro Louisville has lost part of the mortar that holds our city together.” — Kelly Downard, District 16

“I came to know Jim as a good friend over the last several years and was always impressed with his commitment to this Council and his passion toward moving the entire city forward. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with his family as they grieve for their loved one.” — Glen Stuckel, District 17

“I have known Jim for a couple of years. He will be greatly missed and I regret that I didn’t have an opportunity to work with him at Metro Council. My sympathy goes to Debbie and the rest of his family.” — Julie Denton, District 19

“He was my best friend and I will miss him.” — Dan Johnson, District 21

My heartfelt sadness goes out to the entire King family, my wife and I have witnessed Jim’s love and passion for his grandchildren as we often talked at their basketball games over the years. The Metro Council and the taxpayers of our great city can be thankful to Jim for his tenacity toward working for solutions to challenges within the city budget, the downtown arena and so many other projects. He was a friend and colleague that will be sorely missed. May God Bless him and his family in this time of grief. — Robin Engel, District 22

“Today, we recognize the loss of an exemplary community leader and a respected colleague. President Jim King was my friend. He will be sorely missed; his legacy will echo through the countless people and projects in Louisville Metro that have been affected by his leadership. My prayers are with his family as they grieve alongside our city.” — David Yates, District 25

“Jim was a great man in more ways than one can list. With his passing, this world, and our city in particular, is a little less interesting.” — Brent Ackerson, District 26

Wealthy Local Folks Should Help Hungry Kids

Wealth and perceived power got Greg Fischer’s son out of a serious drug charge. But you expected nothing less. [WDRB]

The Metropolitan Sewer District will go ahead with an investigation against one of its board members and its former chairman, even though the ethics complaint filed against them was withdrawn by the board member who filed it. [C-J/AKN]

Kentucky’s gasoline tax, which fell by 4.3 cents a gallon Jan. 1, is now expected to drop by another 5.1 cents on April 1 unless legislators change state law. [WHAS11]

Lexington and other cities will not have to enact their own ordinances for ride-sharing companies such as Lyft and Uber now that the state has enacted its own regulations, city attorneys told the Urban County Council on Tuesday. [H-L]

A program that provides snacks and nutritious meals to children during months schools aren’t in session is looking for sponsors. [WLKY]

The American health care system may finally be catching up to the rest of the 21st-century economy, in which convenience is not only expected, but demanded — and massive retailers are driving the change. [HuffPo]

Police surround another Louisville school. Tuesday they came with armored trucks and weapons to a locked down Stuart Middle School, after someone called in a report of a shooting at the school. After sweeping the school twice, police determined it was a hoax. [WAVE3]

A bid to reduce racial and economic segregation in Portland public schools was postponed on Tuesday when a group of protesters stormed a school board meeting and demanded more time to learn about the planned policy changes. The proposed change would limit transfers between schools, which white and affluent families have disproportionately used to remove their children from low-performing schools. [Reuters]

This year’s tax season will be full of questions for people who signed up for Kynect, Kentucky’s health insurance exchange, and those who are uninsured. For the first time, people will have to indicate on their tax form if they had health insurance on their tax return. [WFPL]

Mickie “Red” Roquemore was a charming, “great guy” who was well liked and didn’t cause problems at a homeless shelter where he often stayed in the past. Last year, he even secured housing with the help of an agency. But the Pontiac, Detroit resident was found dead on New Year’s Day on a porch where he had recently been sleeping apparently due to temperatures dipping down to 15 degrees overnight. [Think Progress]

In November, Greater Louisville Inc., the metro chamber of commerce, released its legislative wish list for the 2015 short session of the Kentucky General Assembly. [Business First]

Traffic, noise and safety concerns raised by Johnson County communities and other cities along a 106-mile rail line were dismissed in a federal review, but those local leaders are making a second attempt to be heard. [News & Tribune]

KY PSC Says Everything Is Perfect For LG&E-KU

The Kentucky Public Service Commission has wrapped up its review of LG&E and says everything is puppies and rainbows:

The Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) has ended its heightened scrutiny of the consumer service operations of Louisville Gas and Electric Co. (LG&E) and Kentucky Utilities Co. (KU) because the two companies have completed the improvements recommended in the final report of a management review completed in September 2011.

In a letter sent today to the two utilities, the PSC said all 20 of the recommended actions have been completed, ending the need for further progress reports tied to the review, known as a focused management and operations audit.

“The companies are to be commended for the effort devoted toward implementing the audit recommendations,” the PSC said, noting the “long-term benefits in achieving and retaining (the) goal” of industry leadership in customer service.

The PSC will continue to monitor LG&E’s and KU’s customer service performance as part of its routine oversight of the utilities.

The customer service audit was prompted by an increase in customer complaints to the PSC, particularly from 2008 through 2010. The review was ordered in July 2010. In keeping with Kentucky law, an independent outside consultant, The Liberty Consulting Group, was selected to conduct the audit.

Liberty’s final report found that the companies were regularly failing to meet their own internal performance standards for functions such as answering customer calls, meter reading and billing accuracy. The problems were traced to new computer systems and problems in hiring, training and retaining customer service personnel.

The audit report made specific recommendations to correct the shortcomings, including hiring additional call center staff and changing policies with respect to delinquent bills and disconnections.

The utilities were required to submit regular reports on their progress in implementing the audit recommendations. Those progress reports tracked items such as how quickly customers calls and e-mails are answered, meter reading accuracy, and billing accuracy.

The latest progress report was delivered in March 2014. The PSC’s verification review was completed in November 2014. In a response attached to today’s letter, the PSC states that its review found that KU and LG&E had met or exceeded all of the performance goals set by the audit process and had completed work on the final seven of the 20 recommendations.

LG&E and KU reported that they have incurred $7.4 million in one-time cost implementing the audit recommendations, with most of that being spent on an additional statewide call center located in Morganfield in western Kentucky. Maintaining the improved customer service as recommended in the audit will cost about $5.6 million annually, the utilities have told the PSC.

Click here (Warning: External PDF Link) to access the PSC’s full report.

Fischer Bread & Circuses Can Only Get Crazier

It’s almost as if the new school board doesn’t know how to use their googler. They’re proposing moving school board meetings around to various school sites. Unfortunately, that idea from David Jones, has been a disaster for other districts — like Montgomery County. While it gives a tiny number of people a chance to come to a meeting and gives board members a chance to see inside schools, it ultimately creates confusion and makes it tough for transportation-challenged individuals to plan to attend meetings. What Jones isn’t telling anyone and the reporter is ignoring: This is yet another failed Terry Holliday idea. [WDRB]

Metro Council members questioned the city paying millions to Cordish Co. as part of the downtown Omni tower that will include a hotel and apartments even though the company is no longer involved in the project. [C-J/AKN]

Another day, another murder in Possibility City. But there’s nothing to see here, move along. Just ignore it. Pay attention to Greg Fischer’s bread and circuses and everything will be all right. [WHAS11]

A judge in Kentucky has granted a divorce to a same-sex couple despite the fact the state doesn’t recognize gay marriage. [H-L]

Kentucky State Police renew their plea to the public for information that will lead to Bardstown Officer Jason Ellis’ killer. [WLKY]

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up another broad challenge to President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law. [HuffPo]

Prospect police are searching for a man who pointed a gun at a woman as she left a daycare Tuesday morning, according to Chief Jeff Sherrard. [WAVE3]

At 8:16 a.m. on the morning of January 9, 2014, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection received the first of what would quickly become an avalanche of complaints. [The Atlantic]

Louisville’s new fleet of electric buses are lighter, quieter and cleaner than the old, carbon monoxide-emitting trolleys residents have grown accustomed to seeing (and perhaps riding) downtown. [WFPL]

The researchers also say they detected crude MCHM in the Ohio River at Louisville, Kentucky, meaning the chemical traveled at least 390 miles downriver from the spill. [Think Progress]

One of the Midwest’s largest law firms has named a new leader at its Louisville office. Geoff White has been named member-in-charge of Frost Brown Todd LLC in Louisville, assuming the role from John R. McCall, who held the position for just more than two years. [Business First]

The lawsuit that put a halt to the Gateway Development Project at 10th and Spring streets in Jeffersonville last year has been settled in principle, and a new request for proposals for the project has been issued by the city’s redevelopment commission. [News & Tribune]

Hargens Likely To Receive A Magical Review

Louisville Metro Police officers conducted an investigation at Highland Middle School on Monday morning, according to JCPS spokesperson Ben Jackey. [WDRB]

That former University of Louisville basketball star Junior Bridgeman is reportedly in talks to purchase the Atlanta Hawks as part of an ownership group has again sparked conversation locally about chances the city lands an NBA team. [C-J/AKN]

Another day, another University of Louisville athlete facing drug charges. [WHAS11]

Back home from a difficult Army tour in Iraq, it didn’t take long for Kyle O’Hair’s life to unravel. There were nightmares, anxiety and memories of death. He got hooked on drugs. He divorced. He spent time in jail. And he found himself homeless, haunting soup kitchens and shelters. [H-L]

Will the Board of Education give Donna Hargens a glowing review? Of course. This is Possibility City. [WLKY]

These are some of the more than 31,000 violations turned up over the past decade by inspectors who oversee the nation’s sprawling network of more than 4,000 hospices, which provide end-of-life comfort care to more than 1 million patients a year. Yet as The Huffington Post revealed last week, hospices that are docked for major violations during inspections are almost never punished. [HuffPo]

The plan of a man to rob a Fern Creek pharmacy was foiled by an employee who decided to fight back. [WAVE3]

Over 56 percent of Republicans in the 114th Congress deny or question the science behind human-caused climate change. [Think Progress]

When the Kentucky legislature unanimously passed a law last spring decriminalizing the anti-seizure medication cannabidiol oil, a handful of legislators had tears rolling down their cheeks. [WFPL]

Just how crazy have the teabagger loons become? Here’s a taste. [Mother Jones]

Yes, it’s sad that Wild and Woolly Video is closing. But don’t let that sadness tarnish what a great part that institution has played in this city for a number of years. [Business First]

Really, it’s this nonsense with Jeffersonville’s silly mayor again? A strip mall on Meijer Way holding two restaurants may have its water shut off if the building’s landlord doesn’t pay more than $15,000 in accumulated sewer bills by Monday. [News & Tribune]