Frankfort Always Passing Pension Buck

Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling upheld the nationwide tax credit subsidies to help people buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. [H-L]

A fire broke out at a prominent black church in South Carolina on Tuesday night, the latest in a series of blazes at places of worship in the South serving the African-American community. A federal law enforcement source told the Associated Press that the fire was not the work of an arsonist, and that preliminary investigations show it was not intentionally set. [HuffPo]

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

In what may not be a coincidence, a string of nighttime fires have damaged or destroyed at least six predominately black churches in four southern states in the past week. [SPLC]

Much is put into creating ceramics. A sculpture or ware starts as nothing more than a lump of dirt. Then with care, technique, and creativity, it becomes a work of art. [The Morehead News]

You can prove slavery was bad six ways from Sunday, but people can still choose to believe otherwise if they want. Addressing racism isn’t just about correcting erroneous beliefs — it’s about making people see the humanity in others. [Vox]

Data from Kentucky’s 446 public water systems shows they consistently produce excellent quality water and are nearly always in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water requirements, according to the Kentucky annual Drinking Water Report. The report summarizes the compliance data and status of public water system compliance monitoring results. [Energy & Environment Cabinet]

Congressional Republicans are using the power of the purse to do battle against a series of controversial labor regulations from the Obama administration. [The Hill]

Kentucky’s longest serving U.S. Senator says last year’s lengthy and costly campaign showed him two things about how he says people feel about the country. [WKYT]

Scientists who have devoted years developing medicines to cure disease are now working for tobacco companies to make e-cigarettes. [Reuters]

These are your friends or your family. Please consider helping them step away from their xenophobia. [Page One]

There have only been 9 days this year when the police have not killed somebody. Some news outlets put the number as high as 500 dead in the past six months, according to both The Guardian and Killed by the Police.Net. The Washington Post’s own investigation showed nearly 400 dead as of the end of May. [WaPo]

Kentucky’s retired state workers’ pension fund is a mess. It’s the most underfunded of any in the country, and it’s sinking dangerously close to running out of money. Yet state lawmakers, the men and women responsible for budgeting those pensions, don’t have quite the same worry about their own money. [H-L]

Meanwhile, Kentucky can’t even get medicinal marijuana right. Oregon ended marijuana prohibition at midnight Wednesday, joining Colorado, Washington state, Alaska and the District of Columbia in legalizing recreational use of the drug. [HuffPo]

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire…?

Thought it’d be a good idea to share a comment left on a story about Adam Edelen’s review of Fairview Independent Schools:

“Eyes rolling back in your head?

Meanwhile, in Montgomery County…”

Yeah, as a matter of fact they are. The similarities to Montgomery County are shocking, aren’t they?

Phil Rison submits $342,000 in “booster spending” for ONE YEAR on NONEXISTENT FACILITIES that the board knew nothing about. And the documentation shows that there hadn’t been any booster spending on facilities for the three previous years. The documentation also proves that boosters did NOT raise anywhere NEAR $342,000. The documentation acquired by Page One proves that report to be FRAUDULENT…….

Where is Edelen?!

Proof of Conspiracy To Commit Fraud is the term EDELEN’S OWN PEOPLE used to describe text messages between Kristi Carter, daycare director, and Mary Smith, her secretary. This is in itself something that could be prosecuted. ACCORDING TO EDELEN’S OWN PEOPLE. Not to mention an independent school auditor and CPA who was shown the messages. Those messages were the sort of things that would seem to make a state auditor really dig in, being as it was they were directly handed to them. But, nope.

Edelen turned a blind eye, made excuses, whatever. This is the tip of the iceberg. On a positive note, he did nail Powell for hiring his wife. Now he should go after the Powell’s for the illegally paid salary.

Yes, it’s more than enough to make one’s eyes roll back in their head. Practically with an audible “snap”.

Some of the stories referenced in that comment:

  • Edelen Ignoring Messes In Montgomery Co., Too? [October 23, 2013]
  • More Montgomery County Teasers For Edelen [October 25, 2013]
  • Auditor: Joshua Powell Illegally Hired His Wife [December 17, 2013]
  • Investigation Uncovers Massive Spending Scandal In Montgomery Co Schools Involving Phil Rison, Others [May 11, 2015]
  • Montgomery County Funds STILL Unreported In Title IX Documentation [June 1, 2015]
  • Eyebrow-Raising MoCo Title IX Data [June 2, 2015]
  • Records Don’t Support Montgomery County Schools’ Title IX Booster Spending For Facilities Claims [June 15, 2015]
  • On Bookkeeping & Secrecy In MoCo [June 30, 2015]

Nothing to see here, move along, attack the messenger, scream defamation, act as if there’s no reason for concern…

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…

Don’t Forget Who Wrote Rand’s Book

Fayette County Public Schools superintendent candidate Emmanuel “Manny” Caulk said he would bring the skill set of a CEO to the district. [H-L]

Millions of people gained health insurance last year as Affordable Care Act benefits took effect, according to the first official accounting by the federal government. [HuffPo]

Rand Paul called for removal of the confederate flag but he still had a racist, confederate flag-wearing wingnut write one of his books. [C-J/AKN]

Ban gifts and pay trustees? From May 3 to May 7 of this year, hundreds of pension trustees from around the nation gathered at the National Conference of Public Employee Retirement Systems’ annual conference in New Orleans. The gathering, billed as educational, also featured representatives of dozens of financial firms eager to expand their business. [International Business Times]

Trial has begun for a former state lawmaker accused of secretly paying tens of thousands of dollars to a mine inspector in 2009 and 2010 “so he could have that inspector in his back pocket if he needed it,” according to a federal prosecutor. [Ashland Independent]

More Americans are renting — and paying more — as homeownership falls. [NY Times]

The Glasgow Police Department was recently awarded a $3,000 matching grant through the Kentucky League of Cities and purchased several pieces of equipment with it. [Glasgow Daily Times]

An overwhelming majority of Americans say they believe protests against unfair government treatment make the United States a better country. Unless, that is, the protesters are black. [WaPo]

Supporters of a new law that will expand the use of ignition interlocks say it will save lives. [WAVE3]

The Ebola epidemic in Guinea that began early last year has set back the country’s fight against malaria, say experts. [BBC]

Kentucky State Police Post 8 Morehead is conducting a felony investigation in the Clearfield area of Rowan County and is requesting the public’s assistance. [The Morehead News]

Global equity markets and the dollar slipped on Wednesday as skittish investors sought the safety of less risky assets as the possibility of a Greek debt default loomed a little bit larger. [Reuters]

The Urban County Council voted unanimously Tuesday to move forward with the purchase of body cameras for Lexington police officers. A final vote on the $600,000 allocation is expect in a couple of weeks. [H-L]

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi waved the white flag on Wednesday, telling her caucus she would support passage of a key measure tethered to President Barack Obama’s broader trade agenda. Her support all but guarantees that the measure will succeed, thereby handing Obama a major victory on trade. [HuffPo]

It’s Mega KTRS Pee Alert Time Again

Yesterday, Steve Beshear put these people in charge of further wrecking the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System:

  • David Karem, former state senator and former chair of the Kentucky Board of Education
  • David Adkisson, CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
  • Mike Armstrong, executive director of the Kentucky School Boards Association
  • Jason Bailey, research and policy director for the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development
  • Mary Ann Blankenship, executive director of the Kentucky Education Association
  • State Budget Director Jane Driskell
  • Auditor of Public Accounts Adam Edelen, who shall serve as a nonvoting member
  • Amanda Ellis, associate commissioner, Office of Next Generation Learners in the Kentucky Department of Education
  • Secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet Lori Flanery
  • Gary Harbin, executive secretary of the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System
  • State Treasurer Todd Hollenbach, who is also a board member of Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System
  • Secretary of the Governor’s Executive Cabinet Mary Lassiter
  • Secretary of the Personnel Cabinet Timothy Longmeyer
  • Roger Marcum, chairman of the Kentucky Board of Education
  • Brent McKim, Jefferson County Teachers’ Association president
  • Brigitte Blom Ramsey, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence
  • Dr. Tom Shelton, executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents
  • Dr. Bob Wagoner, executive director of the Kentucky Retired Teachers Association
  • Wayne Young, executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Administrators
  • Two members of the Kentucky State Senate designated by the President of the Senate
  • Two members of the Kentucky House of Representatives designated by the Speaker of the House.

Yep, half those people are directly responsible for a good amount of the educational scandals the state has faced the past few years. They’ve been tasked with coming up with solutions to part of the state’s pension nightmare. AKA, tasked with doing nothing/making the pension mess worse.

Jeff Hoover was having none of it:

Even though I have personally led the charge the past two years to address the crisis with the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System through an outside, comprehensive review, I am extremely disappointed Governor Beshear has chosen this response to such a serious situation.

Governor Beshear had a real opportunity to create an independent, non-partisan panel to give a thorough review of KTRS in an effort to make substantive recommendations to solidify the system. Instead the Governor chose to fill this task force with self-serving special interest groups that have been part of the problem, not part of the solution. During the last session House Democrats proposed $3.3 billion in pension obligation bonds for KTRS, which would have handed taxpayers the bill and crushed Kentucky’s economy for decades to come. Meanwhile an outside group recently advised investors to exercise caution in purchasing bonds in Kentucky because of our tremendous pension debt and sluggish economy in the Commonwealth.

I once again call for an independent panel with the foremost experts in areas like investments and actuarial audits to be appointed so we can deliver on our promise to teachers that they will have a stable retirement system for years to come.

Slap fight commence!

Pope: Shut It, Wingnut Climate Deniers

This fall, three high school students from Fayette County Public Schools will be among the first class of 60 students who will enter Morehead State University’s new dual-credit Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics. [H-L]

Reports that President Obama is considering even more troops and bases to fight ISIS in Iraq put me to mind of Roman general Publius Quinctilius Varus. [HuffPo]

Activists said Sunday that the police shooting of a black man in Old Louisville a day earlier illustrates their claim that officers too often use excessive force to subdue people of color, and they said they hope it leads to police measures to increase transparency. [C-J/AKN]

Workers are putting the finishing touches on rows of barracks in a 50-acre camp here, the largest immigration detention center in the country. It houses thousands of women and their children who were caught crossing the border illegally and are seeking asylum in the United States. [NY Times]

Caverna Elementary School Principal Nathan Wyatt is leaving the position he has held for 10 years to work as the Caverna Independent Schools director of district-wide programs. [Glasgow Daily Times]

As the White House considers opening operating bases in Iraq and deploying troops to bolster support for Iraqi forces against ISIS, including one in ISIS-held territory, the cost of airstrikes in the region continues its steady rise. [Mother Jones]

It’s a vital, potentially life-saving project that has been more than a decade in the making—and it finally has secured funding, according to one Perry County official. [Hazard Herald]

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it approved a brain implant from St. Jude Medical Inc that helps reduce symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor, a neurological disorder that causes rhythmic shaking. [Reuters]

Records from Benham Coal Company, one of several Appalachian collections to be digitized by University of Kentucky Libraries Special Collections Research Center as part of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) funded by Coal, Camps, and Railroads project, is now available on the digital library ExploreUK. [Harlan Daily Enterprise]

Millions of Americans rely on rural hospitals for emergency medical care. But in the last five years, these facilities have been shutting down more frequently than in previous years. [NPR]

Nature’s Methane, an Indiana-based biofuel company, has plans to build not one but two biofuel facilities in west Louisville. [Business First]

During Saturday’s speech on New York City’s Roosevelt Island that marked the thematic beginning of her second campaign for the presidency, Hillary Clinton largely stuck to broader economic topics. Yet climate change merited two significant mentions, as well as a promise to make America “the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.” [ThinkProgress]

Kentucky transportation officials say a contract has been awarded for more improvements needed to upgrade the Pennyrile Parkway to interstate highway standards. [H-L]

A draft of Pope Francis’ long-awaited encyclical on the environment has leaked just days before the Vatican was set to release it to the world. [HuffPo]