Fallout From the Keith Hall Scandal

The Herald-Leader editorial board has handed down what can only be called an indictment of the Kentucky Legislature and the corruption surrounding the handling of the Mountain Water Board:

It’s good to have friends in high places, even if they won’t claim you in public.

No one’s owning up to authorship of an amendment that was added to the state budget during the recent special legislative session.

The amendment appears to be a favor for a company that federal prosecutors say served as a channel for illegal payments from road-building magnate Leonard Lawson to former state Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert.

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The amendment could have a tough time surviving a court challenge because it appears to violate the constitutional requirement that bills be about a single subject.

But if anyone in the Senate objected, no one heard about it, and Gov. Steve Beshear passed up his chance to exercise a line-item veto.

Interesting, isn’t it, doing a special favor for a company that may have had a role in defrauding Kentucky taxpayers?

Keith Hall has publicly stated that he was “for” the legislation and that he voted for it. His ties to the company allegedly responsible for Lawson-Nighbert cash funneling are clear.

How long will it take Hall to come clean? House members all point the finger at him. You know they’d be pointing the finger at Greg Stumbo if he was responsible. And about Keith… he says he isn’t responsible. If he’s not, he needs to come clean about who is responsible.

The Keith Hall Scandal Still Lives On

Who wants to bet Keith Hall and a couple other State House members are sweating buckets?

Last week we shared a story about Keith Hall being in ethical hot water over a scandalous piece of legislation helping two non-resident members of an eastern Kentucky water board.

Hall and House Leadership staff then issued a statement of non-denial denial that dug a hole even further. Like we said at the time, Hall is clearly up the unethical taint creek if he couldn’t come clean about who sponsored the legislation and 100% disavow. Of course, he’s unable to do any such thing.

Later in the week, House Speaker Greg Stumbo indicated that Hall was responsible for the legislation. And all the facts seem to back Stumbo up.

Today the Appalachian News-Express’ Russ Cassady has another story on this corrupt instance of legislative secrecy. Unfortunately for Hall, he can’t shake the taint. Take a look at some excerpts:

W. Keith Hall’s continued denial that he sponsored the legislation, signed into law last week, came just a day after a report published in the Saturday edition of the Louisville Courier-Journal, in which House Speaker Greg Stumbo was quoted as saying Hall was, “the guy that talked to me about it.”

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While saying he did not sponsor the language, which would allow Mountain Water District Chairperson Toni Akers and board member Mike Litafik to continue serving because they are customers of Mountain Water District, Hall said Stumbo’s statement does not indicate Hall sponsored the change.

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“I can tell you unequivocally, 100 percent, that I did not put it in there. I did not request it. It was not my language,” Hall said. “But I was for it. I am for that legislation.”

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Hall said he takes issue with what we calls an insinuation, and denied that contract work with his company B.M.M. Inc., his son Jordan’s employment by UMG and business connections he has with Litafik represent a conflict of interest.

According to documents maintained in the Kentucky Secretary of State’s office, Hall is listed as a president of Lucky Leaf Partners, which also has Litafik’s wife, Patricia, listed as a president.

Hall is also listed as one of several presidents of Harvest Flame Partners, Goose Mill Partners and Calhoun Partners, companies which list Mike Litafik as a president.

All the companies also share an Upper Johns Creek Road address which Mike Litafik lists as his business address.

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Hall said he is a partner, not a president of the companies.

“I’m not,” he said. “That’s a misstatement.”

And Hall thinks what he’s doing – or merely voting for it – is a-okay.

But get a load of the rest of this Hall mess. He totally raises new questions and potentially opens himself up to some serious speculation.

Trust us when we say that you will not want to miss the rest of this juicy, hot mess after the jump…

Read moreThe Keith Hall Scandal Still Lives On

Early Tuesday Dept of More Old People Dying

Entered to win Bluegrass Treasures and Horse Farms yet? Enter today. Drawing is Friday. [Page One]

Will KACo explain its spending habits? Fat chance. KACo and KLC are embarrassments of the highest order. Such waste, fraud and abuse is a pox on the entire Commonwealth. Oh, and Damon? Why aren’t you hauling UofL officials before a committee? [Ryan Alessi]

Yesterday that Binack Robomma’s wife, Michelle, announced the release of $13,020,330 from the Recovery Act to upgrade and expand community health centers serving patients in Kentucky. “Community Health Centers provide care to the Americans who need it most and their work has never been more important,” said Obama. “These grants will help centers in Kentucky serve more Americans who simply can’t afford insurance coverage anymore.” [Clicky Clicky]

Former Kentucky poet laureate James Baker Hall died. The end must be nigh. Everyone is dying. [H-L]

Kentucky has seven of the country’s most hazardous coal ash dumps. You surprised? [EPA]

Ever wondered what happened to Michael Jackson’s chimp, Bubbles? [Clicky Clicky]

Dudley Webb really is a pox on Lexington. But Jim Gray will make a great mayor. [Barefoot & Progressive]

Governor Steve Beshear, who is deep in the pockets of payday loan sharks, still leaves payday loan users left in the dark. [Bluegrass Politics]

Wait for it– Inhofe claims the EPA has buried evidence to help that Barack Obama hide the fact that there’s no such thing as global warming. They’ve been cooking that science since 1998! Heh. [The Hill]

What the crap is with all these murder-suicides in Kentucky these days? I thought the poverty was gonna kill everybody– not the murderin n suicidin! [H-L]

The Urbanophile is making the case for 8664 in Louisville. What do you think? [The Urbanophile]

Oh Snap Monday! Keith Hall Outed by Stumbo

Our praise goes out to House Speaker Greg Stumbo for doing what’s right and for telling the truth: Wait, wait! What’s that? Oh, yes, it’s GREG STUMBO admitting that Keith Hall was the guy who talked to him about the Mountain Water Board shenanigans. Interesting that the C-J didn’t mention that we got additional statements from House Leadership that further proved Hall would not deny his involvement. But this mess isn’t going away for Keith Hall. [Tom Loftus]

We encourage you to write Speaker Stumbo and thank him for his honesty and for finally standing up for eastern Kentucky. [Clicky Clicky]

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has launched a civil rights investigation into Kentucky’s Medicaid program. [Bluegrass Politics]

This is why Kentucky can have nice things. Because some people work to improve what they’ve already got. Not everyone has to forgo the old and build something bigger and better. [Bruce Schreiner]

Trey Grayson is set to raise about $500,000. Do you hear crazy old Jim Bunning packing his bags at this very moment? [Roll Call]

Is Mitch McConnell Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker? It’s a barf fest, so consider yourself forewarned. [WaPo via Star Tribune]

Governor Steve Beshear told a crowd at the Ruby Laffoon – Steve Beshear dinner all about the Democratic values he possesses. We believe that if he truly possesses the values of which he spoke, he’ll do the right thing and force everyone within his administration to do the right thing ethically, legally and morally. He campaigned as a change agent and needs to keep his promises. [Hopkins County]

40 years later, the gays are still second-class citizens in the U.S. and A. [Frank Rich]

The Herald-Leader has noticed that Steve Beshear needs a new running mate. Abramson, Luallen and Thompson. Who will it be? More than one person in the Governor’s office tell us Jerry Abramson is their pick. And Abramson’s own staff tell us he wants to be Lt. Governor, as he’s “done with Louisville.” But we’ll see, right? [H-L

Keith Hall Responds to News-Express Story

State Rep. Keith Hall has responded to the Appalachian News-Express story which we shared with you earlier. Susan Klimchak, Director of Communications for Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, says the paper will likely publish Hall’s remark in a day or two.

Here’s Hall’s statement in its entirety:

Yesterday and last night I received several phone calls while in Special Session here in Frankfort from Russ Cassidy (sic) at the Appalachian News Express.

We worked until after 8:30 last night in Special Session and Russ left several messages for me pertaining to House Bill 1.

House Bill 1 is Speaker Greg Stumbo’s budget bill. I first read and approved House Bill 1 in the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee on Monday. The bill came to the House floor for a full vote later that day, where it passed by a vote of 68-28.

The Pike County delegation all voted in favor of this legislation.

House Bill 1 was sent to the Senate where it became Senate Committee Substitute 1 and was referred to the Senate and House Conference Committee to settle differences. It was approved and passed by all conferees.

Since I have been in this Special Session, I have voted in favor of House Bill 1, House Bill 3 and House Bill 4.

I voted against House Bill 2, the racinos/slots/gambling bill. Pertaining to House Bill 1, I did not submit, authorize, or sponsor any language at any time.

House leadership released a statement yesterday to the press that it was their language, their authorship and their sponsorship of House Bill 1.

I am submitting the official vote of House Bill 1 to validate this statement.

I hope this clarifies any misunderstandings or misconceptions about this particular legislation.

Keith says he didn’t submit, authorize or sponsor any language at any time. But he doesn’t say he had nothing to do with the specifics of the water board shenanigans. Did he have anything to do with it? Is that what Leadership and Hall are denying? Further, if Hall is to be free of ethical taint, why didn’t he abstain from voting, as this clearly and directly benefits him personally?

We asked those questions of Klimchak and here’s the response we received:

Rep. Keith Hall’s company was one of five bidders that was asked to submit sealed bids on a water and sewer project that had been awarded to Kenvirons, Inc., (a Frankfort Kentucky engineering firm) by Mountain Water District. Rep. Hall’s company was a subcontractor for that project.

Membership on the board has nothing to do with the selection of subcontractors by Kenvirons. Rep. Hall does not sit on the board, no do any of his family members. He has nothing to do with the Mountain Water District other than submitting bids when requested by the engineering firm that was awarded the contract.

Rep. Hall has no conflict, therefore, he did not need to abstain from voting. The language impacts all water districts throughout the commonwealth. Customers of the district, who may not live within the geographic area, should have a voice on local water boards, and this legislation provides that opportunity.

Not surprisingly, our question about Hall’s involvement with the legislation was not answered. Imagine that. Now we’re free to draw our own conclusions.

And again, to be free of ethical taint and the appearance of impropriety, why didn’t Keith Hall abstain from voting? Other legislators abstain from voting when they’ve got even less on the line. So why wouldn’t Hall follow suit?

Man, Frankfort is awesome.

This is 2009. Kentucky’s economy is in shambles. State government is loaded down with corruption and shady shenanigans. And we no longer have time for the bullshiz.

So. If you’re not involved, Mr. Hall, say so. Issue a full and complete denial and be specific. Otherwise? Good luck in future elections. Cause it appears that the Appalachian News-Express will not be letting you off the hook. Good on them for pursuing openness and transparency.

Is Keith Hall In Potentially Unethical Hot Water?

Kudos to Russ Cassady for his latest piece of investigative journalism in eastern Kentucky.

Get a load of the latest from the Appalachian News-Express about a provision hidden in the budget bill that could give a couple folks special treatment. Read all about it:

In April, the Kentucky Public Service Commission began investigating the eligibility of Mountain Water District Chair Toni Akers and commissioner Mike Litafik, after the agency received a complaint the two are not eligible to serve because they do not live in the Mountain Water District service area.

The current law requires that anyone serving as a commissioner of a water district be a resident of the district’s service area. The proposed change inserts a provision that allows a commissioner to be either a “resident” or customer” of the water district in order to serve.

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The source of the measure remained a mystery as of presstime.

Because the provision was not added as an amendment, it is not public information who is responsible for the addition of the measure.

Rep Leslie Combs said she was not responsible for adding the provision.

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Sen. Ray S. Jones also said he was not behind the measure, had not seen it until HB1 was before the Senate, and would not support it in its current state.

Fine and dandy so far, eh?

Not so fast:

State Rep. W. Keith Hall, who did not return repeated messages left seeking comment on the provision, has ties with both Mountain Water and Utility Management Group, the company which recently retained a controversial management and operations contract with Mountain Water District.

In a legislative ethics report filed in January, hall (sic) identifies himself as CEO of B.M.M., Inc., a Kentucky corporation. B.M.M. Inc. performs contract work for Mountain Water District, including a recent sewer project at Smith Fork of Phelps, which is estimated to cost more than $800,000.

Hall also has a personal stake in UMG, as his son, Jordan, is employed by the company.

So let’s talk about this for a minute. Everybody but Keith Hall says they’re not responsible. Keith refuses to return calls and/or make an official comment. And it just so happens he stands to personally benefit from this sneaky legislation.

While it’s not unethical to push legislation that you benefit from so long as everyone can benefit from it, it IS unethical to push legislation that only you are directly benefiting from.

We think Keith has a lot of explaining to do. Especially since multiple Frankfort legislators told us he was trying to work people over in support of the corrupt legislation yesterday.

Thoughts?

It’s Thursday & the Day After the Special Session

Apparently it’s a big deal to merely balance the state’s budget for a year while ignoring the underlying problems that will keep the state’s budget jacked for years to come. Governor Steve Beshear is terrified to approach comprehensive tax reform. [KY Post]

Everybody’s best friend and beloved sponsor of SB245 is on the Twitter Machine! [Lt. Dan on the Twitter]

Two Perry County officials have been indicted in a vote buying scheme after using Kentucky Democratic Party funds to, you know, buy votes. [H-L]

Is House Bill 3 the Governor’s way to talk Craig Greenberg into running as Jerry Abramson’s replacement? No idea. Will it help Museum Plaza? Hopefully. [C-J]

What’s that? Even MORE problems as a result of surface mining in eastern Kentucky? Surely not. [H-L]

You’ve gotta read these emails exchanged between Mark Sanford and his mistress. [The State]

All right for “tax breaks” and budget cuts galore. Let’s see just how effed up our budget can become. [Bluegrass Politics]

Ruh ro. David Williams says slots are dead in the 2010 session, as well. [Joe Gerth]

That Joe Scarborough book signing we told you about? It drew out a crowd of 200 people. [H-L]

Billy Graham may not be an anti-Semite, but he’s definitely someone guilty of spewing anti-Semitic remarks on a regular basis. It’s only natural for Al Mohler and the Southern Batshiz Convention to love him. [USA Today]