Hackbarth & Hargens Caught In Another Potentially Illegal Anti-Transparency Mess

Remember Bonnie Hackbarth? She’s the PR hack being paid a couple hundred bucks per second or whatever to serve as a spokesperson for Jefferson County Public Schools. By all accounts, as you’ve read in nearly every publication in town, she’s served as an apologist and whitewasher for superintendent Donna Hargens.

And based on what just showed up in our inbox, she’s been violating open records law like woah.

I’m not gonna do extensive reporting on it because you already know I believe Bonnie Hackbarth to be remarkably bad at her job.

So check out this long PDF about the open records fiasco:


Here’s the email he was responding to:

Mr. Setters,
I am responding to your email to Tamera Crawford below.

First, I would like to apologize to you for our mistaken understanding that requesters are required to make an appointment to view records that have been prepared in response to Open Records Requests. Given your opposing interpretation of the law, I sought legal advice and was told that you are correct. Please accept our sincere apologies. It was never our intent to make it more difficult for you to view documents; in fact, we wanted to make sure that someone was here to assist you. Here is our current interpretation of the law: Once we have responded in writing to a written Open Records Request to let the requester know the date and place at which documents will be available for inspection, the requester may come to that location at any time on or after that date during normal business hours to view those documents. Again, I am very sorry for our error.

As for the status of your outstanding Open Records Requests, please see the letter mailed to you on November 16, 2015 (attached; please disregard the statements “by appointment,” pursuant to our corrected understanding of the law, as noted above). All other documents you requested in your October 5, 2015, that are listed as available in this response are available for your review.


Bonnie J. Hackbarth
JCPS Communications and Community Relations
502-485-3551 (office)

How you gonna make something like $10,000 per month and not be at least loosely familiar with Kentucky’s open records law?


Just think — your tax dollars are paying for Bonnie Hackbarth to drag JCPS further into a boiling pot of awful.

Transparency? Not a thing with JCPS. Not now, not ever. The current administration is just like the two previous administrations.

John Yarmuth Stands Against Xenophobia

There’s at least one person from Kentucky in Washington who isn’t a first-rate bigot:

“As we saw in Paris, the threat of terrorist attacks and radicalization of European nationals is a global security threat. We must continue to work with our allies to combat ISIS and other jihadists who seek to harm and kill innocent civilians. Here at home, the federal government needs to ensure that everyone entering the United States poses no threat to the American people.

“Today, I opposed a misguided bill that uses bureaucratic delays to shut down our Syrian and Iraqi refugee programs, while failing to provide any security improvements to our vetting process. I supported an alternative proposal that improves our vetting process for refugees from all countries with active terrorist networks, not just Syria and Iraq, increases Congressional oversight of these programs, and continues to help families fleeing horrific violence.

“We all saw the heartbreaking and tragic photo of a dead three-year old Syrian boy who had washed ashore in Turkey this past September. His mother and sister also died as they desperately tried to find safety in Greece. More than 70 children have drowned since that photo was taken. The war in Syria has killed at least 250,000 people, including more than 12,000 children. This is a humanitarian crisis.

“As we work to strengthen our security, our answer cannot be to abandon the innocent victims of the same terror we strive to defeat. Our nation was founded with the idea that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights, endowed, not by Congress, but by our creator. We became the wealthiest, most powerful nation the world has ever known as we welcomed the tired, hungry, and poor. These are the values that made us great, and in the face of terror, we cannot turn from them. We must hold them close or risk losing them forever. I’m proud to represent a city that has embraced those ideals, a city that celebrates its rich history of welcoming refugees from around the world. Today, I stand with the people of Louisville in refusing to turn my back on those in need.”

Unfortunately, the rest of the bunch — literally every member of the house and senate from Kentucky — are losing their minds over brown people who are being slaughtered.

Yet you wonder why Kentucky can’t have nice things.

Local State Legislator Turns Republican

It’s a multi-million dollar plan to give Dixie Highway a new look and make the area safer and the city plans to use federal dollars to help make it happen. [WDRB]

Louisville Fraternal Order of Police members re-elected President Dave Mutchler late Tuesday evening, reaffirming the controversial union leader’s defense of police officers this summer by more than a two-thirds vote. [C-J/AKN]

Sam Padilla and his fiancée Megan stopped by their newest JP’s Napa Auto Care location in Fairdale. It is not even open yet to the public yet, but they were making sure Wednesday’s rain wasn’t damaging anything. [WHAS11]

It’s always the rich white guys who fight minimum wage increases. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray declined to say Wednesday if he would sign an ordinance raising the minimum wage in Fayette County to $10.10 an hour over the next three years. [H-L]

WARNING! RIDICULOUS AUTOPLAY VIDEO! You can’t even go to Walmart these days without being injured. [WLKY]

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed tougher new limits on Tuesday on smokestack emissions from nearly two dozen states that burden downwind areas with air pollution from power plants they can’t control. [HuffPo]

Who could have predicted! A lawsuit filed against Louisville Metro Animal Services points out an issue that could cost the city millions of dollars. [WAVE3]

Kentucky Democrats just didn’t want to listen. Now all good old boy hell is breaking loose. [House Republicans]

A Lexington-based nonprofit is using its share of a $2.6 million grant from JPMorgan Chase as leverage to garner millions more in new investments in Louisville’s Russell neighborhood. [WFPL]

There’s a scientific consensus that by 2050, the United States can expect to see an increase in flooding, heat waves, droughts and wildfires due to climate change. Now, scientists at Climate Central and ICF International have produced the first Preparedness Report Card for the United States, highlighting how states are preparing for the projected disasters. Spoiler alert: Kentucky is ill-prepared. [Vocativ]

You’ll have a bigger water bill in 2016 but at least you won’t have a LWC CEO DUIing all over the place. [Business First]

A Floyd County-based court program that serves veterans going through the criminal justice system is widening its reach thanks to partnerships with neighboring counties. [News & Tribune]

Things Are Bad For UofL But…


Lookit what’s going down in Georgia:

The Georgia Attorney General’s office is calling for an investigation into accusations that a former UGA administrator falsified travel reimbursement forms and used state money to take personal trips…


Senior Assistant Attorney General David McLaughlin told WSB that “this matter warrants further inquiry,” and he is concerned that no one ever reported it to his office. He has asked the University System Board of Regents to investigate.

William Perry of the group Georgia Ethics Watchdogs said the state should go even further by asking the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into the charges, since records show that they already reached UGA President Jere Morehead and the University System, but nothing was done.

“Only a thorough investigation by an outside agency can lead to the punishment of the guilty and the true vindication of the innocent,” Perry said.

It gets crazier than that.

Former JCPS Supe’s Messes Now In MA

Remember former Jefferson County Public Schools superintendent Sheldon Berman?

Hold on to your wigs and check this out — from The Andover Townsman in Andover, MA:

Interim school Superintendent Sheldon Berman issued a letter to the School Committee this week outlining his numerous affiliations with various organizations as a way to head off accusations of conflict of interest.


“I write this letter to formally notify you of my membership on the Board of Directors of the following non-profit, educational organizations,” Berman wrote in the Nov. 5 notice to the School Committee. “I am seeking to comply with the provisions … that my membership on the Board of Directors of these organizations ‘is not so substantial as to be deemed likely to affect the integrity of services’ that the Andover School Committee expects from me.”

The first section of the law Berman refers to says that if a state employee violates the conduct law, he would be punished with a fine, imprisonment or both. The second section Berman quotes, however, states that if the employee submits a letter listing his affiliations and it is approved by the appointing authority, which in this case is the school committee, then any financial gain on his or his affiliates’ part would be allowed.


Berman served on the editorial advisory board of Louisville, Kentucky’s Fox affiliate station, was chair of the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Project Alliance advisory board, was a member of the Louisville Zoo Foundation’s board of directors and served as president of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents.

The letter comes in the midst of ongoing negotiations between Berman and the School Committee over whether to extend Berman from a one-year, interim contract to a multi-year, permanent superintendent’s post.


In his letter to the school committee, Berman said he was elected as Chairman of the Board at the Center for Applied Special Technology Center (CAST) at the end of October. He explained in the letter that “only the board of CAST has financial responsibility for the organization.”


Berman, as chairman of the CAST board, does not get paid, he said in the letter. Even if he doesn’t, however, if Andover were to pay for CAST services, the organization would benefit financially.

Although state law says that because of this relationship, any contract agreement between the district and the organization would be prohibited, Berman’s disclosure of his affiliation would make any such agreements acceptable.


Berman also listed himself as chairman of the Virtual High School, Inc., board of directors from 2001 to 2004, and a member of the board from 2004 to 2009.

Part of the VHS mission, according to its website, “is to develop and deliver standards-based, student-centered online courses that increase educational opportunities and 21st century skills.”


In 1996, Berman and a colleague secured a five-year federal grant of $7.4 million to fund Virtual High School Collaborative. Berman got the Department of Education grant with help from then-Congressman Martin Meehan, D-Lowell, and U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., according to media accounts published at the time.


Berman served as superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky from 2007 to 2011. In 2009, the district signed a contract with VHS to offer online courses at two of its high schools.

In 2011, Berman left Kentucky for Eugene, Ore., where he was head of Eugene Public Schools 4j from 2011 to 2015. In 2012, the Oregon district also signed a contract with VHS and continues to provide online learning courses throughout the district.

Remember VHS? That’s some real we-told-you-so stuff, there.

Everything we uncovered about the former JCPS superintendent has become an issue in every district he’s worked in (and been ousted from) since.

Thank goodness everything is great with the new JCPS supe and the board now. Oh, wait… sorry.

Fun Fischer Tax Hikes & Horrible Bigots

There’s a new statue on Louisville’s Museum Row. [WDRB]

Just what Louisville’s working poor need! Once they lose access to health care, they can pay more taxes for the crap that Greg Fischer and his rich daddy want to build and/or destroy. [C-J/AKN]

Bourbon has become such a big tourism draw that the Louisville Filson Historical Society celebrates the day prohibition was repealed more than 80 years ago. [WHAS11]

The water tower in Lebanon is about to get a new mural that should make it very popular on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The tower will be graced by a bottle of bourbon, making it look like the world’s largest Maker’s Mark pour. The city’s 135-foot water tower will be getting a mural by internationally recognized muralist Eric Henn, who will paint it to look like the neck of a gigantic bottle, complete with signature red wax, is pouring bourbon straight down. [H-L]

The Muhammad Ali Center marked a milestone this week — 10 years in Louisville. [WLKY]

President Barack Obama is accusing Republicans who oppose allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S. of being scared of widows and orphans. He says the political posturing “needs to stop.” [HuffPo]

This story will cause area bigots to lose their minds. [WAVE3]

U.S. consumer prices increased in October after two straight months of declines as the cost of healthcare and other services rose, evidence of firming inflation that further supports views that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates next month. [Reuters]

Amid city efforts to develop a system for reusing elements of historical buildings, stakeholders and city officials met Monday to discuss potential uses for preserved parts of the old Board of Trade building. [WFPL]

Poverty does not treat men and women equally, especially in old age. Women 65 years old and older who are living in poverty outnumber men in those circumstances by more than 2 to 1. And these women are likely to face the greatest deprivation as they become older and more frail. [NPR]

Ford Motor Co.’s 9,000 UAW members have voted to reject a new contract that would have set working conditions and raises through the next four years. [Business First]

Indiana bigots are apparently just like Kentucky bigots. Two Syrian refugee families who had been approved to be moved to the United States and were scheduled to arrive in Indianapolis on Thursday have been officially told they are not welcome. [News & Tribune]