Edelen on Fairview Independent Schools

Check this out from Adam Edelen’s office:

Auditor Adam Edelen today released a special examination of the Fairview Independent School District, finding that $360,000 of general fund money was transferred to school activity funds over three years with little to no school board knowledge.

The 63-page report, which will be referred to law enforcement and the Education Professional Standards Board, describes a tiny district in far northeastern Kentucky that allowed its athletics and other activities to deficit spend with no oversight, and then plugged any holes with money that could’ve been used for instructional purposes at the end of the year. The excessive spending on the football program also likely resulted in the District violating Title IX requirements by spending more on boy’s sports than on girls’ sports.

“I appreciate school pride and share the insatiable enthusiasm Kentuckians have for their high school sports, but these were not responsible, grown-up decisions that were being made,” Auditor Edelen said.

The District has less than 900 students, of which 70 percent qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch. Teacher salaries and benefits as a percentage of total spending are the lowest among Kentucky’s 173 public school districts.

“Do these kids deserve to take a fun senior trip and have well-supported sports programs that can compete with those in bigger districts? Absolutely,” Auditor Edelen said. “But that doesn’t trump our responsibility to provide them with a solid education and pay teachers a decent wage.”

The excessive spending on activities identified by auditors happened as the District faced a $373,700 deficit and enacted a Utility Gross Receipts Tax to generate an additional $1.2 million in revenue.

“The same year the District raised taxes, it transferred $162,000 from the general fund into school activity funds,” Auditor Edelen said. “Excessive spending on activities isn’t the primary reason the District raised taxes, but it certainly wasn’t prudent or responsible either.”

Auditors found that the unchecked spending on activities extended to the renovation of the high school weight room with $32,000 in donations from an elementary school activity account. The money was intended to address nonacademic barriers.

The report detailed how excessive spending on the football program likely resulted in the District violating Title IX requirements. Title IX is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. The District demonstrated a disregard for this law by under-reporting football expenditures by at least $148,260 and reporting inaccurate amounts for other sports. Because the former high school Principal/Athletic Director did not request actual athletic expenditures from the Finance Officer to complete the required Title IX Annual Report, he likely knew that inaccurate expenditure information was reported for school year 2012-13 and potentially for previous years not reviewed.

“I’m troubled by the lack of seriousness with which administrators treated Title IX compliance,” Auditor Edelen said.

Auditors identified findings that indicate a lack of appropriate board oversight. The superintendent circumvented board oversight, used the District credit card to pay for personal expenses and authorized a 32 percent pay raise for one employee. A sporting-goods contract was entered into without board approval and the board did not consistently perform superintendent evaluations required by state law.

Throughout the audit, several District staff reported that the superintendent, who is retiring this month, used intimidation tactics so that staff wouldn’t question his decisions or discuss his actions.

“I hope the school board heeds the recommendations in this report and strengthens controls to better protect taxpayers,” Auditor Edelen said.

Eyes rolling back in your head?

Meanwhile, in Montgomery County…

Probably Not A Fun Time For Keith Hall

A jury convicted former state Rep. W. Keith Hall, D-Phelps, on Friday of bribing a state coal mine inspector to win favorable treatment for surface mines he owned in Pike County. [H-L]

Justice Antonin Scalia may have penned the most colorful dissent to Friday’s landmark Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, but his colleague Clarence Thomas wrote the weirdest. [HuffPo]

Gov. Steve Beshear on Friday appointed two new members to the University of Louisville Board of Trustees, potentially tipping the balance of a board divided over the actions of the university’s foundation. [C-J/AKN]

Here we go again — Mitch McConnell is still trying to repeal health care reform. Republicans in Congress are moving toward a plan to use a special budgetary process to repeal ObamaCare, after the Supreme Court ruled for a second time to uphold the controversial law. [The Hill]

Despite challenging lower court rulings throwing out Kentucky’s ban on same sex marriage, Gov. Steve Beshear moved quickly to comply with Friday’s historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling invalidating such bans in all 50 states. [Ronnie Ellis]

Keith Hall made the international news. A former Kentucky state lawmaker was convicted on Friday of bribing a former mining inspector not to cite his coal mining companies for violations. [Reuters]

The Morehead Tourism Commission agreed Thursday to pay a Lexington architectural firm to develop a master plan for the old SunnyBrook golf course. [The Morehead News]

The Supreme Court on Friday ruled 5-4 that same-sex couples nationwide have the constitutional right to marry, splitting the 2016 candidates sharply along partisan lines. [Politico]

The Board of Trustees of the Pine Mountain Settlement School has announced the appointment — effective June 1 — of Geoff Marietta as executive director. He succeeds Miriam Pride who has been serving as interim executive director since spring of last year. [Harlan Daily Enterprise]

A battle is brewing in Mississippi, as the growing animosity directed against Confederate symbols following the church shooting in Charleston has led to calls to remove the rebel pattern from the state’s flag. [BBC]

After the Supreme Court ruled all 50 states must allow same-sex marriages, Republican Matt Bevin used the decision to criticize Attorney General Jack Conway as the two men battle to be the next Kentucky governor. [WKYT]

People from around the country react to Friday’s Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. [NPR]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has admonished South Carolina, Texas and Kentucky for failing to provide enough money from tobacco tax revenue or tobacco prevention efforts. [H-L]

President Barack Obama delivered a stirring eulogy at the funeral for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a South Carolina state senator and pastor who was one of nine people shot and killed at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last week. [HuffPo]

Next Up: Big Gay Divorce Settlements

CHERRY ON TOP OF THE DAY: W. Keith Hall was convicted of bribing that mine inspector. He’ll be sentenced September 17. Faces a decade in prison. [Damn]

Former state Rep. W. Keith Hall, D-Phelps, took the witness stand Thursday in his bribery trial to acknowledge that he paid tens of thousands of dollars to the state inspector assigned to his Pike County coal mines. [H-L]

Love wins. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Friday that it is legal for all Americans, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, to marry the people they love. [HuffPo]

In a historic ruling reshaping the definition of the American family, the Supreme Court of the United States invalidated bans on same-sex marriage in Kentucky and other states, holding that gays and lesbians have the constitutional right to marry. [C-J/AKN]

When you flip on a light switch, odds are, you’re burning coal. But as the fracking boom continues to unleash huge quantities of natural gas, the nation’s electric grid is changing. [NPR]

The Boyd County Fiscal Court voted last week to file the audit for the previous fiscal year, which suggested problems with the body’s efforts to be transparent and organized. [Ashland Independent]

Republican presidential contenders face a dilemma when talking about racial issues after last week’s racially motivated murders at a South Carolina church, as a new poll shows many Republican primary voters are less likely to see the topic as important. [Reuters]

The Industrial Development Economic Authority board approved in a special-called meeting to create a new budget category and more money for park work in the city and the county. [Glasgow Daily Times]

Racehorses are continuing to get quicker, a study of winning times spanning 165 years of racing indicates. [BBC]

The Morehead-Rowan County Chamber of Commerce recognized Dr. Ewell Scott with this year’s Ora L. Cline Award, its highest honor. [The Morehead News]

The Federal Election Commission should just do its job already. [Mother Jones]

After struggling for years with a billing system that was created in the 1980s, the City of Hazard is finally moving toward a 21st Century way of billing its utility customers. [Hazard Herald]

In the 14 years since Al Qaeda carried out attacks on New York and the Pentagon, extremists have regularly executed smaller lethal assaults in the United States, explaining their motives in online manifestoes or social media rants. But the breakdown of extremist ideologies behind those attacks may come as a surprise. [NY Times]

Federal authorities are investigating controversial Floyd County attorney Eric C. Conn, according to an attorney familiar with the situation. [H-L]

Searches for “gun shop” are usually more popular than “gun control,” according to data Google Trends averaged from the past year. But in the 72 hours following the Charleston shooting, “gun control” was the more popular search term in 45 states. Only South Dakota, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and North Carolina saw more queries for “gun shop.” [HuffPo]

Fun thing: Attorneys can finally focus on making this thing happen again. Give us all your money so I can stop working 18 hours per day sometime in the future. [Just Do It]

Myra Chenault Finally Pleads Guilty

We’ve told you about Myra Chenault, Montgomery County’s Master Commissioner, for quite some time.

Well…. look what Jack Conway just announced:

Attorney General Jack Conway today announced the guilty plea and sentencing of former Montgomery County Master Commissioner for abuse of public trust. This morning, 40-year-old Myra Chenault of Mt. Sterling, Ky., entered a guilty plea in Franklin Circuit Court to one count of abuse of public trust, a Class D felony carrying a penalty range of one to five years in prison. As part of her plea agreement, Chenault agrees to serve two years in prison, which will be diverted for a period of three years. Chenault also agreed to pay back $60,000 in restitution and relinquish her license to practice law.

Chenault admitted in in her guilty plea that she was acting as a public servant in her position as the Montgomery County Master Commissioner. Between the dates of January 2013 and September 2014, an investigation found that she unlawfully obtained $60,000 in funds administered by the Administrative Office of the Courts located in Franklin County, Ky. As Master Commissioner, she had an obligation to make a specific payment or disposition with those funds and she admitted to intentionally using that public money as her own.

“I appreciate the hard work of my Office of Special Prosecutions for securing a guilty plea in this case,” General Conway said. “These laws are in place to protect the citizens in Kentucky from the illegal mismanagement of resources by public officials and to ensure that there is transparency in the disposition of public funds.”

Get ready, Montgomery County, cause the cavalry is coming.

Another School District Suspended Its Superintendent Last Night

Check out what’s happened in Oldham County, per WDRB:

Oldham County Schools superintendent Will Wells has been suspended.

Wells was suspended at a special meeting Thursday night, school board chairwoman Joyce Fletcher confirmed.

-SNIP-

The board has hired Fenzel with Middleton Reutlinger to launch an investigation into Will Wells’ management of district personnel, relationships with staff members and impact on staff morale, school board and community confidence in his ability to perform his job.

Joshua Powell isn’t the only one.

Now, to watch some folks in media scramble around trying to figure out how this all works. Wonder where they’ll turn for clues?

Joshua Powell Violated Judge’s Order

The Montgomery County Board of Education has tried for nearly two months to get fired superintendent Joshua Powell to return equipment and keys belonging to the school district. He’s refused to do so.

Despite an order from a judge earlier this week, Powell didn’t turn over his equipment or keys. His deadline was close of business on Wednesday. District officials tell us they haven’t heard anything from Powell or his attorney regarding their return.

Which means the judge is going to eat him alive today, as we hear attorneys for the district are taking action.

Check out this photo from the Mt. Sterling Advocate:


BY BRAD LAUX IN THE MT. STERLING ADVOCATE

And a bit of their coverage, which is surprisingly accurate:

…Coleman, a Circuit Judge from Pike County, ruled that Powell had to turn in the remaining school equipment of which he is still in possession by the end of the day Wednesday.

Powell was suspended as superintendent in early January. The board of education voted in April following a report from a Lexington law firm hired to investigate allegations of misconduct involving Powell to proceed with removing him as superintendent.

Terry Holliday, state commissioner of education, gave the board the go-ahead to proceed with the removal process, however, Powell is entitled to a due process hearing.

-SNIP-

The final matter discussed was in regard to the return of school system equipment still in Powell’s possession. The items included a personal WiFi, iPad and building keys.

Massey, who has taken issues from the beginning of Powell’s suspension as he claims state statute does not specifically address suspension, only removal, said Powell cannot be terminated until the conclusion of his due process hearing. Consequently, Powell believes he remains as superintendent (and thus retains the right to keep all equipment) until the expiration of his contract June 30.

-SNIP-

Coleman … ordered Powell to immediately return all school system items still in his possession.

The parties agreed that Powell’s wife Anna, who currently is employed by the Board of Education, would turn everything in by the end of the day on Wednesday (June 24).

We’d link you to the story but the newspaper doesn’t have it online as of this publication.

Judge Coleman also called Powell and his attorney, Ed Massey, out for playing games with due process hearing dates.

Powell is going to pop a vein when he reads that the paper, which has been unquestionably loyal to him — going so far as to ignore major details, misleading the public, attacking the school board — reported that Holliday approved his removal. He can’t argue that he wasn’t removed, that the Commissioner of Education didn’t approve his termination, can’t argue that the public is unaware. His own paper finally reported something based in reality surrounding that.

For those who keep asking: He remains on unpaid leave, using up accumulated sick days.

This is why Montgomery County can’t have nice things. Fired superintendents ignoring orders from judges while playing flippant games.

More to come a bit later.