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Ken Rechtin's Another Voice: Readers Offer Feedback on Corruption in NKY

In last week’s Another Voice, I noted that, while Kentucky ranks last in so many areas like the health of our citizens and education levels, it was good to notice that, in studies of corruption, Kentucky ranks third! (There is a little bit of sarcasm in the last sentence...) 

If you remember, I argue (and State Auditor Edelen seems to agree) that part of the problem in NKY is the fact that we, in NKY, have numerous governments which need to be watched! I suggested that we do financial comparisons in order to watch our governments and keep them in check.

I have heard a lot from our readers about this issue! So, we will continue that discussion in this week’s and quite possibly next week’s columns.

In answer to the question does NKY have a corruption problem, a surprising 96% of our survey respondents believe that we do. Comments like this one were typical:

“Yes (NKY) does have a corruption problem. There are too many entities dipping their fingers in the cookie jar and it's too easy to see what they can get away with. At one time, the press, written and televised, acted as a watchdog of the goings on in local government. Unfortunately, we have no such guardian today.”

So, what do you think is the answer to corruption? To this question, you answered:

“We need a checks and balance system at local, state, and national levels. We need mandatory training in fiscal COMMON SENSE!”

“I'd like to see all non-payroll expenditures -- contracts, detailed receipts, and checks -- posted to a website. Ideally, it would be listed like a bank account, where expenditures would be listed by transaction date, and you could click on links to show the enabling legislation (and detail on the vote on that legislation), the contract with the vendor (if applicable), and the canceled check.”

“You could start with mandating accrual accounting for county governments. Instead, KY mandates cash accounting!”

“We MUST clean (up) our act, then build on a strong ethical political foundation. (W)ith a local option sales tax...we encourage wasteful spending, if we cannot protect the basic of taxes.”

Is it fair to compare? Many of you said that comparisons were unfair in that each city/county was very different! 

But Mayor Dave Hatter of Fort Wright, who may be the only Mayor in NKY unafraid of comparing his city’s results and financials to other cities in NKY, said differently:

“Good article today, Ken. Using the data compiled by NKADD (the Northern Kentucky Area Development District), I've done a lot of what you’re suggesting for us to use as a benchmark as well as to promote our excellent financial status and low cost of living/doing business.”

Other Another Voice comments were:

“Benchmarking is one of the gold standards of excellence.”

“I don't need to see the financials, my blood pressure is already too high, the concept of 'an honest' broker or ombudsman should be in place to be the judge... in the case of the past 4 years... "Power corrupts...absolute power corrupts, absolutely!" NKY is first, then Frankfort, then Washington, DC.”

“Change has to be made to the construct. Sitting officials don't want to make changes that might threaten their personal best interest. Self-perpetuating corruption.”

“(There are) too many differences such as age of infrastructure, streets, sewers, city buildings, etc. Some comparison definitely but no 2 cities are alike even around North Ky.”

“It might help but until there is standard reporting it would be a nightmare to try to compare between cities. I would expect major differences based on city size and census factors.”

“At least it will point out the obvious differences that should lead to further investigation.”

Last February I listened to a gentleman from Kenton County make a comment about corruption in Kentucky as he spoke to our NKY Caucus members (those Kentucky State Representatives and Senators from our NKY counties):

“Don’t follow past practices and change only the perceptions of corruption...enact legislation to FIX the situation. Perhaps we can focus on these suggestions:

1. Enact a requirement for fiscal management and ethics training for all elected officials and staffs.

2. Require job descriptions and a list of expectations for state and local elected officials.

3. Provide ‘lessons learned’ to all levels of government that help in avoiding similar circumstances of illegal or misappropriate decisions (a.k.a. legal corruption)...learn from our mistakes.

4. Enact a requirement that local governments provide a ‘checks and balances’ for all budget and policy processes.

5. Establish procedures for local boards and commissions to provide public feedback annually to the taxpayers, not just the political leaders. Ensure that boards and commissions are publicly transparent in terms of membership, contact points, procedures, and other processes.”

We can rely on our state auditor to show us the way...or we can be proactive and take steps that mediate the perception...the fact...of poor and inappropriate governance in NKY.

Being Number One in college sports is a great thing...being number one in LEGAL CORRUPTION is more than is CRIMINAL.”

Every election year we hear our politicians talk about: Accountability, Benchmarking, Transparency and Ethical Behavior Training! How about making their promises a reality here in NKY!

Next week we may take a look at some of the comparison work done by Mayor Hatter and others!

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.