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Ken Rechtin's Another Voice: Corruption in Kentucky (Yes, NKY, Too!)

Corruption in Kentucky!?

Oh yes, you say, many years ago in Eastern Kentucky with vote buying, in Northern Kentucky with gambling, in our General Assembly in Frankfort with Operation Boptrot 
and in some other areas of our state... but we have cleaned all that up! We have transparent and accountable government here in Kentucky! No corruption!

Not so fast!

From a very recent Harvard University Center for Ethics study published December 1, 2014:

“Measuring Illegal and Legal Corruption in American States: Some Results from the Corruption in America Survey”

“What are the most and least corrupt states, taking all three government branches into account? ...With respect to illegal corruption, Arizona is perceived to be the most corrupt state, followed by a second group of states, which includes California and Kentucky... Kentucky is not only perceived to be illegally corrupt but also legally corrupt. With respect to legal corruption, Kentucky is the most corrupt state.”

This study was reported on by Joe Sonka, in “Insider Louisville”, but the study received very little attention throughout our State! I refer you to Joe Sonka’s column for a more detailed understanding of the study’s findings.

And yet another study from researchers at the University of Hong Kong and Indiana University estimates that corruption on the state level is costing Americans in the 10 most corrupt states an average of $1,308 per year, or 5.2 percent of those states’ average expenditures per year. In this study Kentucky is ranked 9th most corrupt. So this corruption in Kentucky is costing each one of us, on average, $1,308 per year! I don’t know about you, but another $1,300 dollars in my pocket would make me happy!

But, what does this have to do with NKY? This is a problem in other areas of the state!

Without going into the ugly details, here are a few of the NKY cases in recent years: Former City of Covington Finance Director, Greater Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky Airport Board of Directors, Dayton Independent School’s retired Superintendent, Former Boone County Water District Manager, Former Boone County Public Works Director, Former Northern Kentucky University Athletic Director, The Elsmere Fire Protection District (10 findings), Food Services Department of the Kenton County Schools (travel expenses), etc. 

Has there been a problem? Yes!

Does it continue? I don’t know?... Maybe! ...Probably!

Our State Auditor, Adam Edelen, who has frequently visited our NKY region on official visits, thinks that part of the problem “could be the high number of governments you have here...”

He has said, "Significant public corruption is a cause for alarm. Certainly Northern Kentuckians deserve better than they’re getting right now.”

On a state level, a local State Senator thinks so as well. Damon Thayer, in an op-ed column on his SB40 filed in the 2011 session said, “Taxpayer savings, by itself, would be a worthy reason to permanently institute an online state checkbook, but it goes further than that... open governments result in a healthier civic life, increased public morale, and even positive economic results for the private sector and the broader community.”

I am sure that all of our governments here in NKY comply with the basic regulations of reporting their financial data. 

But, we could demand more!

Auditor Edelen says, “part of our problem could be the high number of governments you have here”. Without eliminating the number of cities or other governments of which we are so proud, we could simply chart the financial comparisons of like governments. Governments found to be out of financial sync with their peers could then be scrutinized further so that we can assure ourselves that there is no corruption.

While I commend State Auditor Edelen for his commitment to accountability and transparency, especially with his success on holding the Special Purpose Government Entities (referred to as SPGE, also known as library districts, fire districts, area planning districts, sanitation districts, etc. ) to some accountability, we could demand more! 

Countywide elected officials, fiscal courts, could be the board which would approve the budgets, expenses and tax rates of these non-elected SPGEs.

Senator Thayer says that we could demand more even on a state level: “As we’ve seen with recent investigations into the Kentucky League of Cities and the Kentucky Association of Counties, tax dollars can easily be misspent when the people with the checkbook think no one’s watching. Even when there is no law broken or ethical guideline breached, decision makers will be more leery where the money goes when they understand someone will be looking over their shoulders. It’s the same principle as stores that use video surveillance. Some people will steal regardless, but at least there’s proof of their guilt. The larger savings comes from would-be thieves who decide the risk isn’t worth it.”

All of this calls to mind Thomas Jefferson’s famous quote: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty!” 

Senator Damon Thayer quotes Kentucky native and Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis who once said, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

We can demand better than the 9th most corrupt state in the union!

Hey Senator Thayer and Auditor Edelen, how about working together to create the following tools for a local and state anti-corruption effort?

  1. Uniform standardized online monthly reporting from each type of government. 
  2. Downloadable formats so that the data from each SPGE, city and county may 
  3. Financial reporting formats that are easily understandable by the layman. 

Four easy questions for survey this week: Click Here

The views and opinions expressed here in “Another Voice” do not reflect the views or opinions of The River City News, its owners, writers, or editors. These are solely the ideas of Ken Rechtin. If you wish to make comment to Another Voice, Ken can be reached via email at [email protected] or you may leave a comment here. All rights to use of Another Voice in any fashion are retained by Ken Rechtin. Please contact him for any use of his columns.