C-J Finally Gets It: Robert Felner Investigation Involves Way More Than $694,000 – His Schemes Went Way, Way Deeper

Holy crap. Nancy Rodriguez finally says that the Robert Felner investigation at the University of Louisville involves more than a $694,000 grant!

Can you believe it? Turns out the old boy asked for $120,000 in university endowment funds to pay for things other grants were supposed to cover.

According to the e-mails the newspaper obtained, Felner wanted $120,000 in endowed fund money to pay for surveys and data collection that was to be done by the National Center on Public Education and Prevention Inc. in Illinois.


The fund had been set up to honor Offutt, a former U of L trustee president, and his wife, said Nancy Stablein, the Offutts’ daughter and a university supporter.

And he also tried to use $50,000 in leftover funds from a Jefferson County Public Schools contract.

Besides the endowed fund, Felner indicated in a June 3 e-mail to the university’s grants management office that he planned to use leftover funds from a 2005 contract he had with Jefferson County Public Schools to cover unspecified costs associated with the NCLB Center.

The school district had paid the university $50,000 for Felner to complete a study that looked at effective principal leadership.


Six days after indicating that he planned to use the leftover funds to cover costs related to the NCLB Center, Felner sent another e-mail to the grant management office, indicating that leftover money should be used to pay the Illinois center for work it did on the JCPS principal report. He did not specify the amount.

Meanwhile, UofL president Jim Ramsey says all of those complaints against Robert Felner were “crap,” classes are starting at UofL and students feel uncertain about the future of the university, and money is probably being flushed down the toilet 24/7.

Oh Snap Monday! Lawson Story Is Hot Potaters

OMG! The last line in this story is priceless. And, honestly, so is the entire flipping story. Those former beauty queens sure are jacked up pieces of work. And they’re apparently not just limited to Kentucky. [NY Times]

Here’s a fancy video of Bill Nighbert testifying before the legislature with Tim Hazlette on his left. It’s only 15 seconds so we have no idea what the context is, but if you have other footage, folks, please edit it in a manner that would make us feel comfortable drawing a conclusion. [The YouTube]

Al Cross claims that Mitch McConnell is winning the “air war” against Bruce Lunsford. Nevermind that McConnell has spent millions of dollars and he hasn’t moved at all in the polls. And he didn’t mention that McConnell’s negatives keep going up. Does Al Cross have whatever Jim Bunning suffers from or is he really this disconnected from reality? Sure, Bruce needs to define himself and needs to do a better job communicating to voting populace, but let’s get real. [C-J]

Can David Boswell pull this off? Ben Chandler says Boswell has called him but hasn’t asked him for help raising funds. And we’re left wondering if Boswell is lazy, crazy or something else. WTF. [H-L]

George Dubya has got to be the biggest embarrassment of an American. Ever. Just check out this photo of him “inspecting” some female athletes in China. [Deadspin]

Anyone else think it’s screwed up that the Public Service Commission is now part of the Energy and Environment Cabinet? Attaching the regulators to the regulated. Woo, sign us everyday Kentuckians up for more! We love crap like this, don’t we? [H-L]

Federal investigators are trying to determine whether Leonard Lawson used a company called Utility Management Group to reward former transportation cabinet secretary Bill Nighbert. [C-J]

Here’s a great deal more info on the Nighbert-Lawson scandal with juicy bits and pieces the larger papers aren’t publishing. [Times Tribune]

And John Cheves has a four-million-page profile of Leonard Lawson that should be required reading for anyone following this story. [H-L]

Since it’s Monday? You probably need a pick-me-up. So this is for you. We found it. On the internets. And it is fun to look at on a Monday morning. [You Can Has]

Lawson’s Recent-ish Campaign Contributions

Will the folks Leonard Lawson (H/T to Joe for this link) recently contributed to return his dirty money?

Here’s just a smattering of the hundreds the man has contributed to:

Republican Party of Kentucky

National Republican Congressional Committee

National Republican Senatorial Committee

Read the rest– including Democrats– after the jump…

Read moreLawson’s Recent-ish Campaign Contributions

Leonard Lawson Paid $20K for State Contract Info

Well, whattya know, it’s our old buddies Leonard Lawson and Bill Nighbert all caught up in a shitstorm.

The truth is finally coming out that all kinds of money changed hands in order for Lawson to know confidential information about highway contracts in state government.

And his buddy Bill Nighbert may have gotten a sweet job as payback.

Below are some juicy excerpts:

Road contractor Leonard Lawson paid $20,000 in cash to a state highway engineer who was helping leak confidential bid information on state contracts to Lawson, according to an FBI affidavit filed in federal court.


On about eight occasions during 2006 and 2007, engineer James Rummage was directed by Lawson or then-Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert to obtain the Transportation Cabinet’s cost estimates for state contracts — estimates that are to be kept secret until bids are opened, the affidavit states.

Investigators believe Lawson also made “illegal payments” to Nighbert using a business as a conduit, the affidavit states.


“Lawson told Rummage on one tape that ‘they can’t trace cash’ and made overt offers to assist Rummage with finding and paying for an attorney,” Mason’s affidavit says. “He also encouraged Rummage to ‘take the Fifth’ at an upcoming Grand Jury session and to get an attorney they could work with.”


The affidavit also states, “Investigators believe UMG is the conduit for Lawson to reward Nighbert for his assistance while serving as the KTC Secretary.”

You’ll probably want to CLICK HERE to read the rest…

UPDATE: Here’s what Senate President David Williams had to say, “I have known Bill Nighbert for over a decade. In that time, I have never known him to act unethically or illegally. Judgment should be reserved until the end of the judicial process.”

Felner Not Required to File Financial Disclosure

The University of Louisville never required Robert Felner to file financial disclosure forms that were required by UofL to reveal conflicts of interest. Five years and millions of dollars in grant money and NOTHING was filed. No one batted an eyelash.

Agencies that are subcontracted through grants are also required to comply with disclosure in order to avoid conflicts of interest before grant money is received. Of course, the National Center on Public Education and Social Policy at the University of Rhode Island– where Felner was paid– never filed paperwork. Neither did Tom Schroeder or the National Center for Public Education and Prevention in Illinois.

Since 2005, Felner has overseen a $694,000 federal education grant that is now being investigated. Much of the grant — $450,000 — went to a former colleague and friend, Thomas Schroeder, who was president of an education-research center in Illinois that he said he created at Felner’s request in 2001.

If Felner had filled out the disclosure forms, he would have had to include his financial relationship with the Illinois center, and the fact that Felner was a paid director of a research center at the University of Rhode Island, which received some of the grant money.

Under the university’s financial disclosure policy, Felner and all other faculty or staff involved in research were required each year to show any economic or monetary interests outside their employment with the university, including outside consultant fees, equity interests in publicly held companies and royalty income under a patent license.

Isn’t it great how the C-J continues this $694,000 grant bit but is slowly backing down?

Doesn’t it appear that Felner’s bosses at UofL had to be aware that he was not properly filing financial disclosure forms? Everybody we have spoken with who has ever had a hand in managing a grant says there’s no way on earth the university administration wasn’t aware. And one now has to wonder why the administration allowed these conflicts of interest to exist for five years.

Please Please Please Let It Be Friday Already

What happens when you have way too many espressos in a short period of time? We just found out. You float up to Jesus and then start doing updates really early in the afternoon. And you listen to some fancy band called State Radio sing fancy songs about keepsakes and Darfur and daydream about delicious Indian food.

Lookit! The Courier-Journal is now claiming to have “exclusives!” The paper’s editors finally got tired of being beat to the punch by lowly bloggers and people on the teevee. And they probably got tired of their reporters coming to us for story idears. Fancy, we know. [The ‘Ville Voice]

Aww, poor John McCain and Joe Lieberman and their fancy “Straight Talk” Express. Making right turns in left-only lanes, demolishing minivans, acting just like crazy old men are supposed to act in the land of retirement– Florida. This is absolutely beautiful. [Wonkette]

Mitch McConnell is hiding behind outdated campaign finance rules for the U.S. Senate. Why? Probably to hide all of the scandalous and corrupt corporate interest money that’s funneled his way 24/7. [Huffington Post]

Did you know there’s a new fancy pants publication in the metropolis of Frankfort, Kentucky? Food and dining, horses, tourism. All the fun stuff in Frankvegas. [Capital Living]

Oh snap! We forgot to mention how Bill Bartleman and Ronnie Ellis wore cute matching outfits on KET’s Comment on Kentucky during the Fancy Farm shenanigans last week. How awesome was that for all two of us who watched it? [WKJP]

If you’re like us, you do very important things with your time. Which is why you should go vote for your favorite second-place cheezburger of all time! You can has vote. Wif much win! And maybe eated a cookie. Dr Tinycat to the OR STAT! [I Can Has Cheezburger]

Thursday Is Great Because It’s Almost Friday

You thought Kentucky politics were jacked up? Get a load of this race in Tennessee! HOLY WOW. Jacked up. [Wonkette]

$450,000 in checks from the University of Louisville to the National Center on Public Education and Prevention were deposited into a Louisville bank. And Robert Felner, whom we saw at a Bats game last night, has his hand in the cookie jar. His attorney says he’s helping to locate and reimburse any funds that could be in question. [C-J]

UPDATE: In the C-J’s updated story, the myth of this entire investigation being about one single grant is still perpetuated. Still. Two months later.

Speaking of the University of Louisville… Been wondering what your buddies at UofL make each year? Find out by searching the UofL salary database. [H-L]

Kentucky favorite Al Smith won a fancy award from the Society of Professional Journalists. He was one of three people named as Fellows of the Society. The other two were Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Tim Russert. [PolWatchers]

Today Rep. John Yarmuth (KY-03) will examine the domino effects of high gas prices. He’ll be delivering Meals on Wheels in the A.M. hours and will make a delivery for Kentucky Harvest to Wayside Christian Mission in Louisville in the afternoon. Wouldn’t it be hilarious to see Anne Northup helping the needy or the homeless with her bare hands?  Or donating $150K to charity every year? [Press Release]