Montgomery County Schools: One Step Closer To Solving The Financial Riddle

On Tuesday evening the Montgomery County Board of Education made some big moves.

We’ve long reported that fired/former superintendent Joshua Powell, with the assistance of Jacqui Johnston, moved school bookkeepers to central office in an attempt to maintain absolute control, voiding safeguards and proper segregation of duties.

So the board shut that down:

Finance, controlled by Johnston, has been in a bit of turmoil the past few months several staffers have come forward to share information off-the-record. While those employees fear retaliation and losing their jobs, none of them want to speak on-the-record. But I’m sure anyone following the Montgomery County Schools saga closely will be fascinated to learn that Angela Rhodes no longer signs off on finance reports — that’s now handled by Candace Hunt, one of the Powell/Johnston inner circle members.

Shortly after the board voted to return bookkeepers to the schools, Johnston was visibly upset. Two finance staffers present conferred with Johnston and stormed out of the meeting. Hint, hint: where there’s smoke there’s fire.

In addition to instituting stronger financial controls, the school board also gave district auditor Artie White the boot.

By a 5-0 vote, the board hired Cloyd & Associates of London, Kentucky to conduct a review of the district’s financials:



That sent a shockwave through the district because finances will finally be examined.

In light of Joshua Powell’s claims of having a massive contingency fund — as much as $9.5-$10 million — you can expect the books to get a close examination.


Contingency funds in July 2013 — $7,355,181.49:


April 10, 2015 — $6,163,230.96:


With next year’s contingency projected to be just $5,532,721.75:


That regular decrease in contingency funds is worse than it appears. Each year the district pushed more into the account, as it received more in revenue, and Powell still gutted the fund.

Should be a fun next few months in Montgomery County.

Jack Went To Western Kentucky

A Kentucky Court of Appeals panel heard arguments Tuesday on whether a circuit court judge was correct when he ruled last year that Bluegrass Pipeline cannot use eminent domain to take private property for construction of a natural gas liquids pipeline. [H-L]

“Why does it take a catastrophe like this in order for America to hear our cry?” she continued. “I mean, enough is enough. We’ve had too many lives lost at the hands of police officers. Enough is enough.” [HuffPo]

If you haven’t been following the Cordish-4th Street nightmare in Louisville, you’re really missing out. This is easily the millionth racial discrimination suit against the joint. Greg Fischer just keeps throwing millions and millions at the developer for nothing. Gets worse by the minute. [C-J/AKN]

Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have reached a deal on a long-awaited draft of legislation to speed up the approval of new drugs and treatments. [The Hill]

The Grayson city council called a special meeting Tuesday to finalize its contribution to a $75,000 matching grant to benefit its future downtown park. [Ashland Independent]

A divided Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that states can limit judicial candidates’ ability to personally appeal for donations, a rare victory for supporters of campaign finance limits. [Politico]

The Barren County Schools Local Planning Committee heard from district department directors Monday at Red Cross Elementary School. [Glasgow Daily Times]

During Tuesday’s marriage equality arguments in the Supreme Court, several of the Court’s conservative members suggested that same-sex couples should not be given equal marriage rights because these couples have not enjoyed those rights for most of the past. [ThinkProgress]

Looks like Walter Blevins is off to a horrible start in Rowan County. [The Morehead News]

Administration officials—often unnamed—frequently seem to celebrate drone strikes that kill suspected militants. But the administration has also worked against disclosures of less positive aspects of the CIA’s program, including how many civilians have been killed. [ProPublica]

With less than three weeks to Kentucky’s primary election, democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway is talking about several issues. [WPSD]

The US economy “all but stagnated” in the first three months of the year, growing at an annual rate of just 0.2%, official figures show. [BBC]

Minority employees are being retaliated against and threatened with the loss of their jobs because of the pending Human Rights Commission complaint against Fayette County Public Schools, William Saunders, president of the Lexington chapter of the NAACP, told the school board at a Monday meeting. [H-L]

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality in June, many advocates believe it will be in large part because the court of public opinion has already decided that it’s time. Support for same-sex marriage is at a record high and continues to grow as social conservatives fight to push back the tide. [HuffPo]

Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of Lawn Darts of Fate! Contest runs through the end of the week. [Page One & The ‘Ville Voice]

Unbelievably Unethical: Terry Holliday, et al, Still Serve As References For Powell

Thanks to Florida’s open records laws, we’ve obtained a copy of Joshua Powell’s February 20, 2015 application for employment at the Indian River County school district. Powell, we shared with you last Saturday, was in the running to become that school district’s superintendent. But the Vero Beach community, according to sources on the school board there, rejected him after reaching out to Montgomery County Schools and the Kentucky Department of Education.

Gonna bury the real meat of this article, so you’ll just have to deal with it.

Here’s Powell’s cover letter:


Bold emphasis ours:

February 20, 2015

Board Chairman
Indian River School Board
1990 25th Street
Vero Beach, FL 32960

To whom it may concern:

I offer this letter and attachments as my formal interest in the Superintendent position of the Indian River County School District.

I am in the process of completing my ninth year as a public school district superintendent and have gained a wide range of experience. I have led three very different school districts to phenomenal achievement in virtually every aspect of school functioning, especially in the areas of school finance, student achievement, and employee morale. Along with this, I have demonstrated the courage and conviction needed to make difficult decisions and have navigated through the various obstacles associated with transforming districts that persistently performed poorly into high performing districts.

I have a true passion for public education and feel strongly that school leaders must strive for excellence in every area of school and district functioning. My expectations are high due to the fact that I sincerely believe that public education is the saving grace for both children and communities. With this, I have always worked tirelessly to ensure that all students achieve at high levels and have led in a manner that has had a real and meaningful impact on those that are passionate and dedicated to improving the lives of children.

I have an uncanny talent to solve difficult issues and pride myself in having the ability to be creative and innovative in doing so. I often view challenges as being unique opportunities to implement beneficial change and have a history of achieving extraordinary results.

I have earned advanced degrees in clinical psychology (M.A.), school counseling (Rank I), and have a doctoral degree in Education Leadership and Organizational Development from the University of Louisville. My dissertation and continued interest in the areas of workplace behaviors and organizational achievement has served me well as a district leader.

My experience, passion, education and proven track record has prepared me to be the next Indian River Superintendent. I am in the prime of my career and have a large family including five, young children and a wife to accompany me on a new adventure. I would very much appreciate an opportunity to interview and am excited about the prospect of joining the district team.


Joshua E. Powell

You’ll note that he didn’t mention he’d been suspended from Montgomery County Schools several weeks prior or that he was currently in the midst of a major hearing at the Education Professional Standards Board.

You’ll also likely remember that February 20 was well more than a month after Terry Holliday had received information from the school board regarding Powell’s suspension and the related investigation. Holliday will likely claim he was unaware that he was being used as a reference but that certainly rings hollow.

Check out his resume:


Unfortunately for Powell, his Montgomery County achievements aren’t exactly based in reality. Powell claims that the district “had significant increase in working conditions” and “maintained positive growth in employee culture, civility, and engagement” — both pretty far off the mark. He’s been repeatedly sued for the opposite, we’ve reported on it for nearly two years and the school board fired him in part for those problems.

He also claimed the district’s financial reserve was “increased and maintained” — something we’ve already disproved. The district’s contingency fund is more than $3.5 million lower than when he took the helm.

The Chinese language program? Such a disaster that the school board gave it the boot last week.

Chromebook initiative? Well, you’ve read all about that.

Here’s his CV — complete with a presentation involving Larry Bailey and some additional events that were set to take place through March:


The best part? Definitely Powell’s references:


Listing the Commissioner of Education, after all that’s gone on, as a reference isn’t something that’s going to look good for Holliday.

Listing Ed Massey, Powell’s current attorney in his employment case, and Wayne Young of KASA, Powell’s previous attorney? Wow. Just wow.

Gulley and Murphy are both former school board members who had to give up their spots on the board because of the myriad messes.

Richard Hughes is the MSU guy who facilitated Powell’s massive misinformation advertising campaign.

And Artie White? The district’s former auditor (more on that tomorrow)? This is at least the second time White’s served as a reference for Powell. According to CPAs we’ve spoken with, it’s potentially so unethical he could lose his licensure.

Now you see why there’s significant concern within Montgomery County and the larger education community that Terry Holliday is dragging his feet in approving or denying Joshua Powell’s termination. He’s had nearly a month to make a decision. The longer he delays, the more Powell receives in compensation, of course. But it appears increasingly that Holliday is a major enabler of the problems in Montgomery County Schools. Serving as a reference for Powell? Unreal.

Worst-Kept Gubernatorial Race Secret

U.S. Senior District Judge John G. Heyburn II, a Republican who carved an independent and progressive path in three decades on the federal bench, upholding school desegregation and striking down laws that forbade gay marriage, died Wednesday, according to U.S. District Court clerk Vanessa Armstrong. [C-J/AKN]

Told ya it was Hal Heiner’s folks responsible for all of that nonsense against Jamie Comer. Comer has known about it since early 2014. He tasked attorney/lobbyist Riggs Lewis to figure things out. I know because I helped them get to the bottom of it. Riggs just manipulated this for political gain, holding the information until close to the primary. Allegedly, according to Lewis, there’s evidence to suggest members of the Heiner campaign are sources of the information. [H-L]

The case for garden-based learning in schools seems simple, even obvious, at first: What harm could there be in encouraging young children to connect with nature and learn more about the ecology around them, including where the food they eat comes from? [HuffPo]

Following news reports about huge deferred compensation packages awarded by the University of Louisville Foundation to President James Ramsey and his top aides, two members of the university’s board of trustees have called for the foundation to be folded into the university. [C-J/AKN]

The number of Americans on disability has declined for six months in a row in a sharp turnaround after years of increases, more evidence of the labor market recovery the Federal Reserve wants to see before nudging interest rates higher. [Reuters]

Frankfort veteran officer Mike Wells was specifically named in search warrants filed on Tuesday in connection with the Pappy Van Winkle case. Things are about to get exciting in Frankfort, we hear, so get the popcorn ready. [WLEX18]

The Supreme Court has ruled that the UK government must draw up plans to reduce air pollution by the end of this year. [BBC]

An environmental group has identified what it calls the 50 communities in Central Appalachia that are most at risk from mountaintop removal and 17 are in Kentucky, including the most at risk, Kryton, located in Perry County. [Ronnie Ellis]

House and Senate Republicans on Wednesday unveiled a budget deal that aims to torpedo ObamaCare while balancing the federal books within 10 years. [The Hill]

Glasgow Police Department Interim Chief James Duff has called a press conference for 9 a.m. Friday in the conference room at the police department in reference to an investigation by Kentucky State Police into missing equipment from the department, according to a press release by the police department. [Glasgow Daily Times]

Arguments about the death penalty at the Supreme Court Wednesday unleashed a series of unusually caustic comments from the justices, who appeared to be bitterly divided over whether a lethal injection procedure states have turned to as a result of a drug shortage runs an unacceptable risk of inmates suffering as they’re executed. [Politico]

Dorie Hubbard and her husband Tom stopped Monday next to the clear, gurgling Silver Creek-Brushey Fork divide east of Berea, where they briefly listened as birds sang. [Richmond Register]

The drug midazolam may or may not be effective in preventing death row inmates from experiencing the excruciating pain caused by the other drugs Oklahoma wants to use to execute three inmates. This pain, which Justice Elena Kagan likens to the sensation of being burnt alive, would violate the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment under any plausible interpretation of the Eighth Amendment. [ThinkProgress]

Lexington officials demanded Tuesday in a letter to the Webb Companies that the developers fill in the CentrePointe site because there has been little or no recent work on the long-delayed downtown project. [H-L]

Shockingly few students are proficient in U.S. history. Is anyone really shocked? [HuffPo]

Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of Lawn Darts of Fate! Contest runs through the end of the week. [Page One & The ‘Ville Voice]

Jamie Comer’s Revisionism Is Hilarious

Brigitte Blom Ramsey has been chosen by the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence’s board of directors to be executive director. [H-L]

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) told HuffPost Live he likely won’t be running for president again in 2016, largely because of the influence of money in politics. [HuffPo]

Nate Haney has resigned as chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Executive Committee, after nearly two years in the post. [C-J/AKN]

Rand Paul took the stage in Louisville this month for his presidential campaign kickoff and delivered a thunderous pronouncement to cheering supporters. “We limit the president to two terms. It’s about time we limit the terms of Congress!” he blared. Back in the U.S. Senate, the idea was quickly dismissed — by Paul’s fellow Republicans. [Politico]

Williamsburg Police Sergeant Brandon White has a title most officers don’t carry. Sgt. White is a drug recognition expert. He can determine the type of drug, or drugs, the person he arrests is using. [WKYT]

The call comes into the Afghan battalion headquarters, a small concrete building that once housed American Green Berets. The Taliban are attacking a police checkpoint under construction in the foothills of Nangahar Province in eastern Afghanistan, a short distance from the border with Pakistan. [NPR]

During a recent meeting of the Evarts Tourist Commission, members discussed BB&T charging the city $5 per month for each account they have with the bank and then charging city employees’ another fee to cash their payroll checks. [Harlan Daily Enterprise]

Where do America’s most racist people live? “The rural Northeast and South,” suggests a new study just published in PLOS ONE. [WaPo]

WFPL’s community conversation Thursday (from April 17) on the surge of heroin addiction in the region drew a wide range of participants, including public health officials, treatment professionals and people in recovery. [WFPL]

A key expert in the supreme court lethal injection case did his research on How the Supreme Court case over lethal injection shows it’s becoming nearly impossible to find experts to defend the practice. [ProPublica]

Comer, who is the current commissioner of agriculture, said he has the same vision for the state now that he had for Kentucky agriculture four years ago. Which isn’t remotely accurate. Otherwise, half his staff wouldn’t have quit over his erratic behavior. [BGDN]

U.S. economic growth braked more sharply than expected in the first quarter as harsh weather dampened consumer spending and energy companies struggling with low prices slashed spending, but there are signs activity is picking up. [Reuters]

Law enforcement agencies in northeastern Kentucky are working together to fight crime. [H-L]

Members of Congress criticizing Clinton cash should look in the mirror. People like Rand Paul, apparently. [HuffPo]

Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of Lawn Darts of Fate! Contest runs through the end of the week. [Page One & The ‘Ville Voice]

Deeper Look At Problems In Montgomery County Schools: Chief Administrative Officer Edition

Last week we hit another jackpot in the Montgomery County Schools saga.

It comes as no surprise to anyone following the story, no. But discovering that assistant superintendent/personnel head/finance head/whatever Jacqui Johnston is still knee-deep in the Joshua Powell scheme is an eye-opener for the interim superintendent, Donald Pace.

Editorialization aside, let’s dig in.

Jacqui Johnston spent nearly two months trying to withhold public records from us. We’ve written about it a few times previously but it was delay, delay, delay. This person is on vacation, that person is sick, there are thousands upon thousands of pages (there weren’t), you know the drill. Stall tactic after stall tactic.

Shortly after we filed an open records request in February, Johnston was advised by the school district’s legal counsel to fulfill the request. Instead of doing that, she tried to get the Office of the Attorney General to shut us down:


Unfortunately, they shut her down:


Funny how that works. Especially enjoy the frowny face.

Johnston attempted to claim she couldn’t fulfill our request because there were thousands upon thousands of pages. But we knew better because sources at the Kentucky Department of Education had already told us just how many records were available. That information was communicated to board attorney Michelle Williams, who then forced Johnston to provide the documents to her for review. And whattya know? Exactly the number of documents we suggested were available — not thousands.

She panicked and went to KDE to find out how we knew just how many records she was attempting to hide:


Note: Of course I’ve stopped playing nicely with her. She’s spent a year pulling these stunts, hiding information, deleting emails, stalling and covering up.

Fascinating, isn’t it? Caught withholding records, called out on it and still trying to meddle.

One of the scams Johnston attempted to pull? Trying to print out hundreds of pages of email in an attempt to rack up fees:


Something that’s the opposite of legal.

Our search also revealed documents that suggest Johnston tried to withhold information from the State Auditor of Public Accounts during the Joshua Powell-Anna Powell nepotism investigation. ELPO, Powell’s personal law firm, gave her advice during the process.

Check it out:


Check out what Jacqui attempted to hide:


That didn’t work out too well for her.

She kept Joshua Powell in-the-loop:


Really in-the-loop:


Still wondering why Montgomery County Schools are screwed up?

There’s way more where this came from.

Rand Paul Blows Race Whistle Again

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy joined conservative colleagues in asking skeptical questions Tuesday as the high court heard historic arguments over the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry. [H-L]

In a new survey, more than half of self-identified Republicans said they didn’t think the Affordable Care Act is increasing the number of people with health insurance, with a fifth of respondents saying it has actually reduced the number of people with coverage. For the record, the evidence suggests these people are flat-out wrong. [HuffPo]

The longstanding, high-profile lawsuits of legislative staff members accusing state representatives of sexual harassment, retaliation and other misconduct are headed to mediation. Attorneys for three women and the Legislative Research Commission, a defendant in the cases, said Tuesday that all parties have agreed to mediation that they hope will finally resolve the cases. [C-J/AKN]

Here’s a lesson in how to sound racist. Rand Paul says the Baltimore violence is about a lack of fathers and morals. [TPM]

When Kentucky State Police cadets report for training next month, it will be at a different facility in Frankfort. [WKYT]

Industry groups, congressional Republicans and nearly a dozen states are clashing with the Obama administration over planned regulations meant to crack down on some of the most harmful effects of the controversial mountaintop removal mining process. [The Hill]

During a recent special called meeting of the Lynch City Council a resolution establishing a fee for collecting the city of Lynch’s property taxes by the Harlan County Sheriff’s Office was approved. [Harlan Daily Enterprise]

Warning of an “innovation deficit,” scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say declining government spending on basic research is holding back potentially life-saving advances in 15 fields, from robotics and fusion energy to Alzheimer’s disease and agriculture. [Reuters]

A Kentucky proposal to study the background levels of certain chemicals in urban soil has gotten funding from the federal government. [WFPL]

Some of the most effective lobbyists on same-sex marriage don’t stalk the halls of Congress or pound the pavement on K Street: They’re the children of Republican politicians. [Politico]

The Bowling Green Independent School District board voted Monday to approve a staffing allocation formula that includes a 6 percent additional discretionary staff allocation for the 2015-16 school year. [BGDN]

Supreme Court justices broke along familiar ideological lines Tuesday as they considered whether same-sex couples enjoy a constitutional right to marry, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in a familiar role as the apparent decider in a landmark gay rights case. [WaPo]

It’s 10 seconds James Comer probably wishes he could have back. The Republican candidate for governor was asked why, as a state legislator in 2005, he voted for a bill that would increase legislative pensions. [H-L]

Astronomers are crowing about the discovery of what they say just might be “the largest individual structure ever identified by humanity.” [HuffPo]

Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of Lawn Darts of Fate! Contest runs through the end of the week. [Page One & The ‘Ville Voice]