Post-Holiday Hangover? Read This Crap

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul led a successful effort to block renewal of the Patriot Act early Saturday morning, followed by a deeply divided Senate leaving Washington without taking action on the National Security Agency’s soon-to-expire power to collect Americans’ phone records. [H-L]

Some electronic cigarette companies say that their products help people quit smoking, but the evidence to back up this claim is lacking, a new study finds. [HuffPo]

Republican state Sen. Brandon Smith has been acquitted of driving under the influence of alcohol. [C-J/AKN]

A federal judge on Thursday reaffirmed her earlier ruling that same-sex couples in Alabama have a right to wed under the Constitution, but she put the ruling on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court issues a landmark decision on gay marriage. [Reuters]

Roughly 17 months since the enterprise’s first summit started the conversation and began asking the tough questions, Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) returned to Pikeville for another summit, this time to provide insight and answers. [Hazard Herald]

The voicemail message was like so many others from my mom. “Hi, it’s mom,” she began, then chatted on, full Jewish mother in her distinctive gravelly timbre. “There’s a storm coming your way…Please drive very carefully….Love you. Bye.” [ProPublica]

It’s time for a reminder about Adam Edelen and educational audits. An audit is NOT a forensic accounting investigation. It’s typically a random sampling that gets reviewed unless specific concerns are brought to light. Or, in the case of Montgomery County, not. Because specific concerns were deliberately ignored by Edelen’s team. When he says there was no fraud discovered? Remember: not a forensic accounting, not an in-depth investigation of every nook and cranny. [Business First]

Arizona’s legislature has decided to try to plug a $1 billion budget deficit in part by kicking people off of welfare after just 12 months, the strictest time limit in the country. Sounds like something Frankfort would try. [Think Progress]

More than 50 community members gathered Wednesday to formulate an action plan to improve the health of Madison County residents in three areas – mental health and healthy lifestyle choices as well as alcohol, tobacco and other drug dependency. [Richmond Register]

The sleepy United States senators thought they were done voting. But then, around 1 a.m. on the Saturday before Memorial Day, Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky and presidential candidate, marched spryly to the Senate floor to let it be known that, no, he would not agree to extend the federal government’s bulk collection of phone records program. Not even for one day. [NY Times]

Bradley Lewis has resigned as a sergeant at the Glasgow Police Department, according to information released Friday by interim GPD Chief James Duff. [Glasgow Daily Times]

Mitch McConnell stood at his desk on the Senate floor after 1 a.m. Saturday, the eyes of his colleagues trained on him. He seemed bewildered. [WaPo]

We’ll miss the voice of Merlene Davis and wish her the best! It has been suggested that with this farewell column I should burn bridges and drop the mic. A couple of years ago, I might have done just that. But I’m a bit tired now, weakened by the weight of mirrors I’ve tried to hold up to politicians, school administrators, conservatives, liberals, Democrats and Republicans, neighbors and friends. I’m running out of ways to say the same thing. [Merlene Davis]

A revealing conversation on the Senate floor Thursday showed precisely how secretive President Barack Obama’s pending trade deals are, and the absurdity of arguments to the contrary. [HuffPo]

Terry Holliday Threatened Fayette Co

Carl Richards, director of Madison County’s emergency management agency, was suspended indefinitely this week after an internal audit revealed the theft of $341,757 from a federally funded emergency preparedness program, county Judge-Executive Reagan Taylor said Wednesday. [H-L]

Support for same-sex marriage has reached an all-time high, according to recent polls. A new survey from Gallup shows a record 60 percent of Americans now say they approve of legalized same-sex marriage. [HuffPo]

An assault case in Jefferson Circuit Court was dismissed Tuesday by a judge who ruled an assistant commonwealth’s attorney “altered” evidence that was “deliberately not disclosed and concealed” from the defense counsel. [C-J/AKN]

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Wednesday announced the results of a four-state crackdown aimed at stopping illegal distribution of addictive prescription medicines, such as opioid painkillers, that yielded 280 arrests. [Reuters]

An unnamed person, while under the influence of alcohol, stabbed a man with a piece of lattice while in Ashland on Saturday, according to Ashland Police reports. [Ashland Independent]

At a hearing in Washington, a renewed call for addressing the violence and neglect that plagues group homes for foster youth. [ProPublica]

While the Republican race for governor is getting most of the attention Wednesday morning, as fewer than 100 votes separated former Agricultural Commissioner James Comer and former U.S. Senate hopeful Matt Bevin, a Floyd County native has earned her place on November’s ballot. [Hazard Herald]

“Some of his weaknesses really didn’t get relitigated in this primary,” said Scott Jennings, a Republican strategist who has advised McConnell campaigns. “In a heads-up race against Conway, I fully expect them to relitigate cockfighting and everything else.” [NY Times]

Oh, look, another empty threat from Terry Holliday. The Kentucky Education Commissioner has warned that Fayette County Schools could face state actions if low-achieving schools don’t improve. [WKYT]

States lack accurate statistics on widespread heroin use. [NPR]

Kentucky’s economy is only sunny on paper. To suggest otherwise would mean you’ve never actually stepped foot outside the Golden Triangle or spoken with actual Kentuckians. [WFPL]

Organic farms act as a refuge for wild plants, offsetting the loss of biodiversity on conventional farms, a study suggests. Fields around organic farms have more types of wild plants, providing benefits for wildlife, say scientists. [BBC]

Why the hell is Sam Youngman pretending he doesn’t know why KC Crosbie thanked Danny Briscoe?! He’s the one who told anyone who would listen about his investigation of Scott Crosbie. Come on, Youngman, you’re better than that. [H-L]

Republican Jeb Bush said on Wednesday that the Earth’s climate is changing but that scientific research does not clearly show how much of the change is due to humans and how much is from natural causes. [HuffPo]

On Failing An Entire Community…

What the hell?

Just read these bits from the Mt. Sterling Advocate:


FROM THIS WEEK’S ADVOCATE

Big time impact as board of education abolishes positions

-SNIP-

Last week, the Montgomery County Board of Education voted to abolish more than 20 positions.

Among those is Phil Rison’s position as director of student services/assistant superintendent.

Most board members are saying little. Two claim they simply followed the recommendations of Acting Superintendent Donald Pace.

-SNIP-

Whatever the case, there doesn’t seem to be a straight answer. While the board says many of the positions were unfilled, a number were filled.

And no board member, or Pace, for that matter, will directly answer why Rison’s position was eliminated.

-SNIP-

Now, the story is that Rison never actually had the role of superintendent, that he wasn’t even listed under that title on the district’s website. The Advocate, however, always referred to Rison in stories as “assistant superintendent,” and not once were we corrected.

-SNIP-

Regardless, Rison is a long-term educator. He’s dedicated his life and career to students and staff in our schools. He deserves better.

Or at least a real explanation, as does the rest of this community. This is not the first instance in which our board has made a bold move and then offers no or few comments about its decision. These elected officials should never in the practice of not directly answering/addressing the public — the very people who put them in their positions — when decisions such as this are made. We encourage the board to be more open in the future!

And:

Confusion reigns over Phil Rison’s position

-SNIP-

He was visibly shaken when the board announced its decision at the May 11 meeting. At the time, he said “the decision speaks for itself.” He has declined further comment.

In addition to his duties at Central Office, Rison has also served as athletics director for the school district and is currently slated to become a member of the Kentucky High School Athletics Association Board of Control. He frequently speaks on subjects related to school athletics at conferences across the U.S.

“Frustratingly bad,” is how one concerned teacher in Montgomery County introduced the latest nonsense to us. We couldn’t agree more.

This is yet another instance of that small town newspaper deliberately misleading its readership and providing a massive disservice to the community. It’s possibly the most dishonest move we’ve yet seen from the paper. From providing Joshua Powell a platform to spin and lie to ignoring major scandals and government records, it’s been bad in Montgomery County. But this is probably the worst.

Why it’s bad: anyone who has half paid attention to Montgomery County the past two years knows why Phil Rison’s position was abolished. So let’s highlight a few of those reasons:

  • Bid rigging
  • The iPad scandal
  • Title IX scandals (plural)
  • Misappropriation/use of funds without approval on multiple occasions
  • Special Education testing scandals
  • Anna Powell
  • Getting his entire family hired
  • EPSB investigations

To name a few. All backed up with government documentation, video, email, police reports, audio.

To suggest the man is a saint with the best interests of the school district at heart is not only disingenuous, it’s disgusting.

Rison’s job description was altered by Joshua Powell and Jacqui Johnston, approved by the previous school board. You’d think actual journalists could spend fifteen seconds searching the school district’s website to determine that.

Suggesting that no one from the district ever complained to the paper about the way it identified Phil Rison? Perhaps because the previous school board, run by Joshua Powell, Kenney Gulley and Kelly Murphy was a documented hot mess. Or perhaps because the paper ignored anyone but those three, including current board members. Maybe they could have filed an open records request every once in a while or reviewed a personnel file or two.

Shysters like these are the reason we provide mountains of documentation. So there’s no room to claim a lack of objectivity. Because Montgomery County deserves better than a handful of corrupt good old boys manipulating everything that goes on in local government and the school district.

And Rison becoming a member of the KHSAA Board after getting caught deliberately misleading and misreporting Title IX spending information to that very organization? After repeatedly getting caught spending thousands upon thousands of dollars without authorization or any sort of approval? Hahahaha.

Still wondering why Montgomery County can’t have nice things?

It’s because of the good old boy network, which includes the Mt. Sterling Advocate.

P.S. Alice Anderson and the rest of that school board do need to get a grip and start putting that shitty paper in its place. In addition to being more transparent and less paranoid. They can start with ending their effort to have lawsuits filed by people like Michelle Henry dropped. Anderson, Smith-Breiner and Morgan are all on record supporting Henry, so they ought to back their hypocrisy up a taste.

P.P.S. Lindsay Rison Maples, Phil Rison’s daughter, is one of the people losing a job in the district. She currently serves under Anna Powell as an occupational therapist. Several teachers and an administrator have contacted us to say Lindsay’s been holding Admissions and Release Committee meetings with teachers, instructing them to contact the school board to press for bringing occupational therapy positions back. That should end really well for her. Since that’s not only unethical but potentially illegal.

Afghanistan Sure Is A Terrible Mess

Kentucky’s Republican voters narrowly chose Ryan Quarles to represent the GOP in the race for commissioner of agriculture in a down-to-the-wire finish Tuesday night. [H-L]

A faction of Republicans in the House of Representatives wants to stop poor people from buying junk food with food stamps. [HuffPo]

During the recent Kentucky shoot for “Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking,” there was no “Cutthroat Kitchen,” and nobody got “Chopped.” Rather, two local chefs wandered among buffalo grazing in Goshen, grilled bison brisket, bison skirt steak and fresh asparagus under tents at a Finchville farm, and relished the scent of slow-fermenting bourbon at Woodford Reserve distillery in Versailles. [C-J/AKN]

The third of four key U.S. congressional committees on Tuesday approved funding for 12 additional Boeing Co fighter jets in fiscal 2016, increasing the prospects that the company will keep its St. Louis production line running past the end of 2017. [Reuters]

The evening started with a rainbow that arced perfectly behind the commencement stage. And it ended with a fireworks display in the Friday night sky above Richmond. [Richmond Register]

This is a story about how the U.S. military built a lavish headquarters in Afghanistan that wasn’t needed, wasn’t wanted and wasn’t ever used—at a cost to American taxpayers of at least $25 million. [ProPublica]

Fairview school superintendent Bill Musick violated and impeded state education law by allowing non-teachers to teach students, interfering in hiring, withholding staffing allocations, transferring employees without posting vacancies and allowing two administrators to perform duties for which they were not certified, according to a report by the state Office of Education Accountability. [Ashland Independent]

The phrase “Aids epidemic” awakens distant memories in most of Europe, Australia or the Americas, where infection rates have generally been in decline for years. But as former UK Health Secretary Lord Fowler explains, the phrase is not used in Russia either – despite failed policies that have allowed infection rates to soar. [BBC]

Effective Monday, Glasgow Police Sgt. Bradley Lewis was placed on administrative leave with pay, according to a Glasgow Police Department press release. [Glasgow Daily Times]

A new survey of financial professionals tends to confirm the widely held belief that the financial industry has an ethics problem. [NPR]

Negative impacts of development have significantly impaired water quality and stream bank stability in the Triplett Creek watershed. [The Morehead News]

The White House has released its rural child poverty report. [External PDF Link]

Building and maintaining a linear park through downtown Lexington could cost upwards of $75 million, city officials told the Urban County Council on Tuesday. [H-L]

Throngs of students hit the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico, last week to protest Gov. Alejandro García Padilla’s proposal to cut some $166 million from the budget for the island’s public university system — roughly one-fifth of the system’s total funds. [HuffPo]

Special Ed Emerges As MoCo Problem

Now that you know the Kentucky Department of Education investigated Joshua Powell’s cohorts in Montgomery County Schools for special education testing problems, it’s clear that a troubling pattern has emerged.

That comes on top of Holliday saying in his letter to the school board that text scores rose because of the disproportionate boost in special education students.

After Powell himself claimed in his 65-page rebuttal letter that special education dollars had doubled during his tenure.

The individual at the helm of special education is Joshua Powell’s illegally-hired wife, Anna.

Their special education right hand, Dena Amburgy, has seen her job abolished.

While everyone twiddles their thumbs, nothing to see here, move along?

Enough red flags have been raised to make it clear Montgomery County is incapable of cleaning up its own mess. KDE is incapable. It’s time for the feds to sweep in.

Another piece to the testing puzzle: Michelle Henry, who played a large role in testing, was pushed out by Powell just a couple weeks before middle school testing was to begin. Her co-workers eventually left or were forced out in scandal after scandal. Larry Bailey came along as Powell’s pick for principal but even he’s since fled, touting test scores on his job application as a selling point.

Nothing to see here, though, move along, puppies, rainbows…

See, What Had Happened Was…

Republicans on Tuesday picked state Senate Judiciary Chairman Whitney Westerfield, 34, as their nominee for Kentucky attorney general. [H-L]

Defrauded student loan borrowers seeking relief from the Obama administration are confronting an Education Department process that a senior House Democrat compared to the government’s bungled response to the mortgage robo-signing crisis that shook the U.S. housing market. [HuffPo]

Marathon Petroleum isn’t having a good week. First, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway filed suit over the company’s gas prices, claiming monopolistic practices that Conway said have forced Kentucky customers — particularly those in Louisville and Northern Kentucky — to pay more at the pump than they should. [C-J/AKN]

Outside conservative groups are pressuring GOP leaders to take up targeted immigration reforms ahead of the 2016 elections. [The Hill]

A total of 6,885 Madison County voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary election for statewide offices. No local or federal offices were on the ballot. [Richmond Register]

Suicide rates have fallen among young white children in the U.S. but they’ve gone up among black youngsters, according to a new study of suicides in kids under age 12. [Reuters]

The Fairview Board of Education named its new superintendent Tuesday, just days after a blistering report from the Kentucky Office of Educational Accountability found retiring superintendent Bill Musick had violated and impeded state education law in several areas. [Ashland Independent]

Partisan mudslinging breaks out, suggesting that lawmakers and cop-reform advocates have a long way to go to find agreement on new police standards. [Politico]

Barren County Fiscal Court’s proposed budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year got a couple of amendments Tuesday during the first reading of the ordinance adopting it, one of which has stirred confusion. [Glasgow Daily Times]

All 50 states could become wind energy producers, according to an Energy Department report released Tuesday, once the next generation of larger, taller turbines in development hits the market. [NY Times]

The disaster recovery center in Rowan County will close at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 21. [The Morehead News]

A search for a racist word and “house” on Google takes you to the home of the US President, Barack Obama. [BBC]

A bankruptcy attorney and a state representative, both hailing from Eastern Kentucky, will face off for state treasurer this fall. [H-L]

After hearing story after story from voters on the campaign trail about heroin’s toll, Hillary Clinton instructed her policy team to draw up solutions to the burgeoning opiate epidemic. [HuffPo]

Everyone’s Numb Over That Crazy Race

This Woodford County city took the first step Monday toward becoming the eighth in Kentucky to adopt an ordinance to prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity. [H-L]

Louisiana residents may go gaga over Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell and Kate Hudson when they arrive in the state later this year to film a movie about the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. But Louisiana and some other states are starting to question whether they are giving up too much to attract such star power. [HuffPo]

Steve Beshear’s administration has paid $195,400 to a private law firm to defend the state’s gay marriage ban after Attorney General Jack Conway refused to do so. [C-J/AKN]

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is set to unveil legislation that would provide free tuition at four-year public colleges and universities on Tuesday. [The Hill]

Despite efforts by the city to seek a different auditing firm for the next fiscal year, the commission voted to accept a proposal from the same firm that has performed audits for the past 20 years. This move came after Kelley Galloway Smith Goolsby, PSC, in Ashland, was the only accounting firm to respond to the city’s requests for proposals. [Ashland Independent]

The dry, red earth could almost be mistaken for a Martian landscape. It is in fact the Atacama desert in Chile, one of the driest places on Earth. [BBC]

Morehead City Council approved first reading Monday of its 2015-16 budget ordinance which includes a 45-cents-per-hour pay raise for all city employees. [The Morehead News]

A coalition of public policy advocates warned on Tuesday that a group of armed conservative activists who have been guarding a mine in southern Oregon for over a month are a sign of an emerging violent anti-government movement. [Reuters]

The Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Division of Waste Management announced 46 recycling and 25 household hazardous waste (HHW) grants of more than $3.3 million. [Click the Clicky]

The bitter Kentucky Republican gubernatorial primary is going into overtime. [Politico]

In one of the most exciting and tightest statewide elections in history, Republican Matt Bevin apparently won a razor-thin, 83-vote win over James Comer in the primary race for the GOP nomination for governor. [Ronnie Ellis]

David Clarke, the sheriff in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin doesn’t think federal involvement in policing is going to change much. [NPR]

Nearly 1,300 of the 7,211 Kentucky children and youth in foster care are in group placements instead of with families, a news release from a child advocacy group said Tuesday. [H-L]

Leading Republican presidential candidates in the past week settled on an Iraq war narrative. Yes, the intelligence turned out to be faulty, so much so that there wouldn’t be a strong enough case to authorize the invasion in retrospect. But there was consensus that at the time President George W. Bush made the call, something had to be done about the threat posed by Iraq. [HuffPo]