Montgomery's Lawyer Mess Probably Isn't Over

A few weeks ago the Montgomery County Board of Education killed superintendent Joshua Powell’s ability to use his personal friend/attorney at board expense. The vote was 3-2 but the community felt empowered after that.

It was a big moment for the county — big enough to capture on video.

His free legal ride at taxpayer expense was over.

Or so it seemed.

Multiple sources on the school board tell us it was all smoke and mirrors. Even they were snowed thinking they’d ended Powell’s free ride.

Turns out? Powell’s friend/attorney — Mike Owsley/ELPO — is one of the lawyers listed on the district’s legal insurance policy. The board’s actual attorney? They’re not listed.

And board members tell us that they may be forced to hire him/reauthorize payment to him due to insurance policy requirements. Primarily because a major decision has to be made this week in a pending lawsuit.


We also hear, though cannot confirm, that Owsley has been billing the board for calls received not just from Powell but from Jacqui Johnston, Phil Rison, Shannon White, Kristi Carter, et al. Allegedly, they call him up for advice when they’re preparing to terminate one of the people (like Dusso, Hall, Reffitt, Henry, Wallace) they can’t get to play along, he tells them how to move the puzzle pieces. If that’s the case, it’s a sign that he could be pushing folks into difficult situations that make them prone to filing lawsuits — lawsuits he gets paid to fight.

If any of that’s true, it’s a big deal. The board has never voted to provide free legal counsel by anyone other than the actual board attorney to Powell’s circle of friends.

But those are just allegations from board members who’ve asked to remain nameless.

We already know, thanks to a report from the State Auditor of Public Accounts, that detailed board attorney billings aren’t reviewed or approved by the board.

Let’s flash back to State Auditor Adam Edelen’s 2013 examination:

Finding 2: Detailed Board Attorney billings are not routinely reviewed and approved by the Board.

While Board members approved the payment of attorney billings as an accounts payable item listed on the consent decree during monthly Board meetings, the billing statements containing details of the work performed by the Board attorneys are submitted to and maintained only by the Superintendent and are not examined by the Board, Board Chair, or Board committee. Concerning District Board attorneys’ billings, the Superintendent stated “[o]ur practice is to forward only the cover or summary sheet of the invoices to our accounts payable department to protect confidential and privileged information.” By following this process, the Superintendent is the only District representative to routinely examine the details of attorney billings. While the Superintendent is the chief officer of the District, the contracts for attorney services clearly document that the attorneys are engaged by the Board, and, as such, the Board should be aware of the services which the Board attorneys are providing.

In discussing this issue with current and former Board members, most believed that they would be provided with detailed statements if they made a request to the District to review the records; however, until recently Board members had not made such requests. According to one Board member who recently made such a request, the Superintendent did not provide the Board member with the information stating that the details associated with the billing statements were related to personnel matters. Upon auditor’s request, the Board Chair and Assistant Board Chair requested and reviewed unredacted Board attorney billing statements and indicated to auditors that all attorney activity recorded within the billings related to District business.

While legal strategy and details relating to personnel matters may not be issues in which the Board should be involved, Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 160.290 states that a Board “shall have control and management of all school funds.” The oversight process established by the Board must include routine monitoring of the superintendent’s use of funds. As such, it is reasonable to expect that Board members should be routinely provided documentation with sufficient detail to assure that the work performed and being paid for by the District is a legitimate expenditure of the District and not work performed to address a matter unrelated to the District.

One would think that after being called out by the State Auditor, the district would begin complying with the law. But one would be wrong. Because just about anything that occurs involving an attorney in Montgomery County is still easily swept under the rug.

Board members tell us they’re continuing to have difficulty accessing billing information.

Montgomery County Schools is still breaking the law.

P.S. Directed at Powell: Keep attacking me personally for reporting information sourced directly from multiple people within the school system. Keep attempting to defame me, Jake, for publishing government documents and open records obtained directly from you that are signed BY YOU. The more you attack me personally, the more motivation I have to follow your every move. I know who wins and it’s not you, hoss.

Might As Well Hammer The Rand Thing Again

Two-thirds of Kentuckians oppose changing the law to allow Rand Paul to run for senate and president at the same time. [H-L]

As the debate rages about the best way to fix America’s public schools — from heated rhetoric on the role of standardized testing to wonkier discussions about the intricacies of curricula — a new report is arguing that reformers have overlooked a game-changing solution: addressing absenteeism. [HuffPo]

Dealing another blow to LG&E’s plans for a coal ash dump on its Trimble County power plant property, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is now opposing a key federal permit and suggesting an underground alternative. [C-J/AKN]

The Supreme Court received more than 80 friend-of-the-court briefs in the Hobby Lobby case. Most of these filings, also called amicus briefs, were dull and repetitive recitations of familiar legal arguments. [NY Times]

Gurley Martin died and people are upset. The man was 90. He was old. You expected it. That’s the extent of us offering kind words about the guy. [OC Monitor]

President Obama may not move on executive actions for immigration reform this summer, the White House conceded on Tuesday. [The Hill]

The Madison County Detention Center has changed how it reconciles its checkbook and no longer uses a signature stamp, prompted by the state auditor’s criticism. According to a news release from state Auditor Adam Edelen, the jail’s bank reconciliations accounted only for items that had cleared the bank and did not include amounts for outstanding checks/liabilities. [Richmond Register]

Gun Owners of America is throwing in with a neo-Nazi accused of plotting to attack a Mexican consulate. [Mother Jones]

Hundreds of hometowners and Tri State visitors lined Louisa Street, starting at the C. David Hagerman Justice Center, positioning at 8:30 a.m. for a good seat when the annual Labor Day parade took off at 10 a.m. [Ashland Independent]

Halliburton has agreed to pay $1.1 billion in a settlement that accounts for the majority of the lawsuits against the company for its role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. [Think Progress]

Temperatures were warm during the 35th annual Monroe County Watermelon Festival on Saturday, but a slow, cool breeze provided relief from the humidity – and carried the sounds of fiddle, banjo and Dobro. [Glasgow Daily Times]

Overblown claims of deaths and waiting times at the VA. [WaPo]

Unveiling a platform called “Handshake with Kentucky,” state House Republican leaders vowed Tuesday to approve “right-to-work” legislation and a host of other proposals if they gain control of the House this fall. [H-L]

Americans’ eating habits have improved — except among the poor, evidence of a widening wealth gap when it comes to diet. Yet even among wealthier adults, food choices remain far from ideal, a 12-year study found. [HuffPo]

Menifee Co. Schools Scandals Are About To Peak

The shenanigans at Menifee County Schools have been reported on quite a bit less than those in Montgomery County but most of our readership should still be loosely aware of what’s going on.

It will surprise no one that the Kentucky Department of Education has decided to send in eight or nine (estimating that number based on what we’ve been able to determine from folks at KDE and in Menifee County) people to conduct an audit of the school system. That’s come down since a circuit judge found the previous superintendent’s contract invalid.

It’s a heap of a mess, really. With the previous superintendent, who was tight with Terry Holliday, KDE refused meetings with board members. Holliday personally denied at least one meeting requested when those board members were alerting him to serious wrongdoing. And look how that played out — the superintendent was ousted and the district is under investigation. Now Holliday and crew see fit to pay attention.

The audit is, according to our sources, set to begin on the 15th.

On a semi-related note: Montgomery County Schools superintendent Joshua Powell hired two finance staffers from Menifee County after recommendations from Terry Holliday. That was shortly after the Menifee County scandal(s) hit the press. Adam Edelen’s staff were aware of everything that was going down but turned a blind eye.

Jesse Benton's Gone But Daddy's Bus Mess Isn't

It’s a three-day weekend. Don’t expect much beyond a roundup or two today.

The re-election campaign of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has gained momentum in the last month, propelled by huge leads over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in Western and Eastern Kentucky and among men, according to a new Bluegrass Poll. [H-L]

Like we’ve been saying on Twitter… Privately, McConnell aides said that Benton had been sidelined for months in a reorganization of the campaign after the GOP primary season, and that former McConnell Chief of Staff Josh Holmes has been effectively in charge since. [HuffPo]

Louisville celebrated its multiculturalism with world music, food and fun Saturday at the 12th annual WorldFest on the Belvedere. [C-J/AKN]

Summers in the U.S. have been warming since the 1970s due to climate change, though it might not seem like it if you’re riding out this unusually cool August in the northeast and midwest. Hint: This is about Louisville. [Fast Company]

The day after his campaign manager quit in the wake of an expanding Iowa campaign bribery investigation, Mitch McConnell was posing for photos, shaking hands and riding in the Watermelon Festival Parade here. What he wasn’t doing was answering a reporter’s questions. [Ronnie Ellis]

Kentucky Democratic Senate nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes is facing fresh questions over her campaign bus as a new report reveals the company that owns it lacks the necessary permits required to operate it. [The Hill]

Nine weeks until election day, Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race remains close, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has improved his lead over Alison Lundergan Grimes in the latest WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll, from a two point lead one month ago to a four point lead today. [Joe Arnold]

A sinkhole that swallowed eight cars inside the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky will be filled even though it has become a tourist attraction that sharply increased attendance and revenue, the museum’s board decided on Saturday. [Reuters]

September is Bourbon Heritage Month in the Commonwealth of Kentucky! [External PDF]

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, announced his resignation late Friday, citing potential distractions over renewed attention to a scandal from the Iowa 2012 caucuses. [Politico]

Money taken each year in Kentucky during all robberies combined falls well short of the total amount of wages improperly withheld from Kentucky’s workers. The Kentucky Labor Cabinet collects an average of $4.5 million each year in wage restitution for employees, and that total far surpasses the average annual amount of $2 million taken during all robberies in the Commonwealth. [Press Release]

Five hundred people will learn tomorrow if they have won the chance to vent their frustration at world leaders over the global citizens stalemate over climate policy. [BBC]

Payday lenders in Kentucky are coming under increasing restrictions because of a pair of laws passed by the state and federal governments at the start of the decade. [H-L]

The U.N. racism watchdog urged the United States on Friday to halt the excessive use of force by police after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman touched off riots in Ferguson, Missouri. Minorities, particularly African Americans, are victims of disparities, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) said after examining the U.S. record. [HuffPo]

Proof Powell Used Intimidation Tactics With Dusso

We told you long ago about Jim Dusso — the man Montgomery County Schools superintendent Joshua Powell fired because he refused to illegally retaliate against Kelly Wallace. If you’re unfamiliar, catch up:

  • Montgomery Co. Has Yet Another Big Problem [March 3, 2014]
  • In Wake Of The Latest Montgomery Co. Scandal… [March 4, 2014]
  • Montgomery Co Supe Goes On Fishing Expedition [April 28, 2014]
  • Montgomery Co. High School Principal Reinstated But The Wildfire Of Corruption Rages On [May 30, 2014]
  • Sources Confirm Additional Powell Investigations [June 3, 2014]
  • Could Josh Powell’s Principal Hiring Be Illegal? [June 11, 2014]
  • Newspaper Misinforms Montgomery County Again [June 12, 2014]
  • More Retaliation Claims Surface In Montgomery Co. [June 25, 2014]
  • Scheme Unravels: Joshua Powell Gets Sued [July 31, 2014]
  • Illegally Hired Union Principal’s A Powell Favorite [August 25, 2014]

For quite some time, Powell has claimed that he didn’t use taxpayer dollars to retaliate against Dusso. He’s gone so far as to have his people claim that there were never any official documents drawn up.

But you already know how Powell operates. You have his playbook. You know he makes threats, offers to let people keep their jobs until the end of the year in an attempt to silence them, frightens them into submission. He’s done the same thing repeatedly. With Jennifer Hall, with Michelle Goins-Henry, with Gene Heffington. The list goes on and on.

You also know that if we’re good at anything, it’s getting our hands on documents like these:


See? A paper trail emerges.



Yep — there you have it. The resignation Powell had his taxpayer-funded personal attorney draft up. Along with an agreement to use if Dusso agreed to go along with his scheme.

BUT WAIT! It gets crazier.

Check out the letter Powell sent Dusso when all that failed:


Yes, you just read nine pages of insanity. All claims that Powell had to admit were bogus upon bringing Dusso back into the school system.

And you wonder why Montgomery County can’t have nice things.

P.S. to Powell: We have the text messages between from you and Jacqui Johnston authorizing Terry Rhodes to enter the system. Maybe we should publish those in yet another scandalous story. And some of those teachers you claim filed complaints against Dusso? Some of them have signed sworn affidavits claiming you coerced them. Yep, definitely time for another story.

When MoCo Ended Joshua Powell's Free Ride

The Montgomery County Board of Education meets in a regular session this evening at 6:30 P.M. at Camargo in Mt. Sterling. You may access a PDF of the evening’s agenda by clicking here — right-hand column under “Meetings”.

So it only makes sense to look at some video highlights from the last meeting:

It’s telling that Donna Wilson made dishonest excuses for why the school board had been paying for Powell’s attorney, claiming that the arrangement was beneficial for the school board.

But the entire community was pleased when Wilson caved, coming over to the light side.

Al Cross Makes Important Political Points Again

Calling Hillary Rodham Clinton “a war hawk,” Sen. Rand Paul says that if the former secretary of state seeks the presidency, some voters will worry that she will get the U.S. involved in another Mideast war. [H-L]

During a book signing in Florida on Saturday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was confronted by a group of Dreamers over his vote against Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA. [HuffPo]

Al Cross kicks asses and takes names in this column about looking beyond coal. First, he takes Hal Heiner’s ignorant butt to task. Then he points out how slanted and inaccurate stories about coal from both WFPL and the Courier-Journal were. [C-J/AKN]

If it’s happening there, you know it’s happening here. In California, some efforts to toughen oversight of assisted living falter. Cost concerns may derail efforts by lawmakers and advocates to require more frequent inspections and a swifter response to allegations of abuse and neglect. [ProPublica]

Owensboro is preparing to host some old-fashioned political stump-speaking. This year’s Red, White, and Blue Picnic is Tuesday and will be headlined by U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes. [WKUFM]

Of course this Kentucky story made international news. Two Kentucky firefighters are being treated for severe burns after suffering electric shocks while helping students participate in the “ice bucket challenge”, local media report. [BBC]

After heated discussion that led to a tied vote and the ejection of one Carter County resident, the Carter County Fiscal Court passed into law an ordinance giving magistrates access to a total of $1.5 million for road repairs. [Ashland Independent]

Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat hoping to unseat Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), thinks that “limited air strikes for humanitarian reasons and in support of our allies against terrorists are appropriate,” according to a campaign aide. [The Hill]

Spending more taxpayer dollars on mailing in his first term in office than most other members of Congress, Kentucky U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, says he will not apologize for communicating with his constituents and defends his office’s fiscal record of cutting other wasteful spending. [CN|2]

The small city of Jennings, Mo., had a police department so troubled, and with so much tension between white officers and black residents, that the city council finally decided to disband it. Everyone in the Jennings police department was fired. New officers were brought in to create a credible department from scratch. That was three years ago. One of the officers who worked in that department, and lost his job along with everyone else, was a young man named Darren Wilson. [WaPo]

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker [yester]day announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $1.15 million grant to the city of Maysville, Kentucky, to construct a new water tank. According to the grantee, the project will support the expansion of the region’s automotive cluster, specifically a Mitsubishi plant, which will create 105 new jobs, retain 660 jobs and generate $60 million in private investment. [Press Release]

We hear Joshua Powell fought the school lunch program in Montgomery County with every pound of his being. Which comes as a surprise to no one, as he couldn’t stand watching a child in need receive a free meal. Or, more to the point (this is also happening in Morgan County), he didn’t want his nutritional managers to have to account for every last cent or prove they’re serving healthy food. [Click the Clicky]

Leaders at Northern Kentucky University say they plan to travel around the state in an effort to spread the word about what makes the school special. [H-L]

This small St. Louis suburb has been transformed over the past two weeks. Hundreds of people turn out every night to march up and down West Florissant Avenue demanding justice, accountability and a voice in the decisions made on their behalf. [HuffPo]