Powell's Unbelievable Unapproved Construction Project For His Illegally-Hired Wife — In Pictures

What would you do if you’d been called out by the State Auditor of Public Accounts for illegally hiring your wife for a $100,000+ (salary & benefits) job? Maybe spend several hundred thousand dollars more on unnecessary construction and renovation to build her an office?

Because that’s exactly what Montgomery County Schools superintendent Joshua Powell is doing.

We previously told you about Powell’s assistant superintendent being called to Frankfort to answer questions about unapproved projects at McNabb Middle School. But it turns out Powell was doing more than renovation at McNabb.

Powell, without board or state approval, has so far spent at least $90,000 moving the maintenance department around so he can renovate their building (essentially an empty pole barn) into an office suite for his wife.

The building his wife will be in:


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The before (from Google) and after of the building maintenance is moving to:


BEFORE


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Photos of the construction:


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Turns out? There not only wasn’t approval given by the board or the state but he was allegedly using jail inmates without approval or proper supervision, didn’t have all (any?) proper permits and no inspections had been completed.

It was such a mess that the state SHUT IT DOWN:


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Huge nightmare for Montgomery County Schools, to say the least.

So it came up during the most recent school board meeting.

Donna Wilson, one of the members who sides with Powell 99% of the time, questioned the legality of the project. We all know it’s not entirely legal. When no attorney (because there was no attorney present) told her it was legal? She still voted to approve the expenditures.


DONNA WILSON DURING THE MEETING

Which means okaying potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction costs for Joshua Powell’s wife.

The Board of Education rushed through approving Joshua Powell’s potentially illegal construction project.

Watch it all play out:




Meanwhile, Frankfort officials are sitting on their hands.

Really Polite People Run For The U.S. Senate

The Urban County Council gave its blessing Tuesday for CentrePointe developers to seek up to $30 million in bond funding through the Kentucky League of Cities. So it looks like your taxpayer dollars will still be used. [H-L]

To most Americans, Gingrich is a charming curiosity: His latest stint with public relevancy was a quixotic 2012 presidential bid in which he visited many of the nation’s finest zoos and advocated the establishment of lunar colonies. [HuffPo]

A racist, anti-semitic candidate for U.S. Senate has placed signs around from Northern Kentucky telling voters “With Jews You Lose.” [C-J/AKN]

Wonder if Robert Felner’s man has anything to do with this craziness? [THR]

The message was clear Tuesday during the opening of the Democratic Party’s headquarters on Glasgow’s east public square, and that was to get out and vote for Democrats. Local, state and congressional candidates spoke during the event. [Glasgow Daily Times]

Wall Street whistleblowers who provide U.S. prosecutors with evidence of financial fraud should get larger rewards for their efforts, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder plans to say in a speech on Wednesday, according to a Justice Department official. [Reuters]

How to know a candidate is weeks behind: Take a look at this from Alison Grimes. She’s just now complaining about Elaine Chao’s involvement with a group that rightfully opposes corrupt coal practices, something Grimes pretends to support because her daddy, Jerry Lundergan, tells her it’s a good idea. Instead of hitting Mitch McConnell where it matters or actually defining herself, she’s stuck in the past on a storyline next to no one cares about. [Alison’s Team Is Still Lost]

US waistlines are continuing to expand, despite obesity appearing to be reaching a plateau, data suggests. [BBC]

Kentucky’s seasonally adjusted preliminary unemployment rate for August 2014 dropped to 7.1 percent from a revised 7.4 percent in July 2014, according to the Office of Employment and Training (OET), an agency of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. [Press Release]

A bill that would have allowed millions of private and federal student loan borrowers to refinance their debts to the lower rate currently being issued on new federal and private student loans was once again blocked in the Senate. [Consumerist]

Really? People are surprised this happens in education in Kentucky? Come on. [WFPL]

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the Minority Leader, has voted seventeen times against raising the minimum wage; in April, he led a successful filibuster of the $10.10 bill. [New Yorker]

It might sound like a story from Kentucky’s violent past, but a Pulaski County man is accused of challenging his brother to a duel. [H-L]

Despite a brief, small rise in America’s trust in the media in 2013, the US has returned to hating the press more than ever, a new Gallup poll found. [HuffPo]

What's The Deal With That Girl's Parents?

Tensions between ride-share drivers and taxicab operators boiled over Tuesday after the Urban County Council delayed action on whether to make companies such as Lyft and Uber follow the same regulations as the city’s taxi operators. [H-L]

America’s top military officials on Tuesday made the case for President Barack Obama’s strategy to target the Islamic State, in a Senate hearing that highlighted how quickly the theoretically limited mission could mushroom into something much more involved. [HuffPo]

Kentuckiana lawmakers use varied methods of nominating students to the nation’s military academies, but most don’t reveal all the names of those they pick. [C-J/AKN]

A Philadelphia apartment building may be a national model for low-income LGBT seniors. The suspicious questions and puzzled looks started as soon as Sidney Meyers, 74, put in his applications to live in a sun-dappled Florida retirement community. Was he ever married? Why not? No children? No grandchildren!? [WaPo]

After a settlement attempt was unsuccessful in the civil lawsuit Billy Randall Stinnett filed against a former Barren County sheriff and some of his deputies, plans are proceeding for the case to go to trial. [Glasgow Daily Times]

More than $1bn is needed to fight the West Africa Ebola outbreak, which is a health crisis “unparalleled in modern times”, UN officials say. [BBC]

Charges are pending against an 11-year-old girl from Greenup County for posting threats of violence toward Greenup County schools, according to the Kentucky State Police. [Ashland Independent]

People seeking clues about how soon the Supreme Court might weigh in on states’ gay marriage bans should pay close attention to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told a Minnesota audience Tuesday. [AP]

Of course she was arrested. You expected something different in Jessamine County? Just days after being convicted of careless driving, a Central Kentucky bicyclist was arrested. [WKYT]

Remember Robert Felner’s man, John Deasy? Look at the ridiculous mess he’s still up to in Los Angeles. [LA Times]

Jesse Benton, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s former campaign manager, severed ties with the Republican Party of Kentucky around the time he resigned from the McConnell campaign Aug. 29, RPK Chairman Steve Robertson told Pure Politics Tuesday. [CN|2]

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes on Wednesday ordered a week-long break in Detroit’s bankruptcy trial, giving the last major objector to the city’s restructuring plan time to rework its case. [Reuters]

A federal appeals panel has upheld long prison sentences for two men who kidnapped and beat a gay man in Harlan County, a case that resulted in the first hate-crime charges in the nation related to sexual orientation. [H-L]

Thousands of service agents at American Airlines unionized with their new colleagues at U.S. Airways on Tuesday, making the most of last year’s airline mega-merger. [HuffPo]

Some Potential Insurance Fraud In Montgomery Co?

Or at least something close to it?

You’ll likely recall that the Montgomery County Board of Education voted some time ago to ditch superintendent Joshua Powell’s private personal attorney — a guy they’ve paid tens upon tens of thousands of dollars this year alone. All to represent Powell and his inner circle. Instead of using the already paid school board attorney.

But guess what?

Neither Powell nor the board chair have notified the Montgomery County Schools’ legal insurance carrier:


And it’s in his own writing.

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

There you go.

State House Dems Spending Unbelievably Freely

What the hell is going on in the State House?

Everyone knows state legislators can receive $188.22 per day for interim pay (leadership amounts are higher). But has everyone taken a look at just how much cash people are pocketing for little to nothing to show for it?

Let’s take a look at interim pay for legislators — people in good with Greg Stumbo:

  1. Dennis Horlander made$12,422 for 66 Days
  2. Derick Graham made $11,161 for 59 Days
  3. Mary Lou Marzian made $10,542 for 56 Days
  4. Jim Gooch made $9,617 for 51 Days
  5. Joni Jenkins made $8,846 for 47 Days
  6. Dennis Keene made $8,676 for 46 Days
  7. Arnold Simpson made $8,658 for 46 Days
  8. Susan Westrom made $8,658 for 46 Days
  9. Tom Burch made $8,337 for 44 Days
  10. Ruth Ann Palumbo made $7,717 for 41 Days
  11. Terry Mills made $7,717 for 41 Days

Jenkins and Marzian used to be the people who complained the most about legislators taking home the bacon like that. Looks like they’ve figured out how to jump on board the cash train.

In the senate? Just look:

  1. Whitney Westerfield made $8,149 for 43 Days
  2. Ernie Harris made $7,735 for 41 Days
  3. Jimmy Higdon made $7,735 for 41 Days
  4. Mike Wilson made $6,606 for 35 days
  5. Joe Bowen made $6,474 for 34 Days
  6. David Givens made $4,329 for 23 Days
  7. Tom Buford made $3,952 for 21 Days
  8. John Schickel made $3,801 for 20 Days
  9. Alice Kerr made $3,255 for 17 Days
  10. Chris McDaniel made $3,199 for 17 days

The number 1 recipient of cash in the senate barely scratches the top ten when compared to the house.

$102,351 for the house and $55,235 for the senate.

But nothing to see here, puppies and rainbows, move along.

Edelen Released The Fayette Co. Schools Audit

State Auditor of Public Accounts Adam Edelen just released his review of Fayette County Public Schools and it’s not a great situation.

Take a look at some excerpts from his accompanying press release:

Auditor Adam Edelen on Wednesday released a special examination of Fayette County Public Schools, finding chronic mismanagement of the district’s budget and finances that have contributed to its financial instability.

Auditors did not find any evidence of alleged criminal activity; however, they determined that poor financial management, weak policies and failed communications culminated in a weakened financial position for the district.

-SNIP-

Auditors identified salary and perk disparities between administrative and educational staff, excessive travel and training within one department, violations of the procurement process and other board policies, potential conflicts of interest, and other concerns.

-SNIP-

Auditors found that the budget director did not become aware of certain financial transactions in a timely manner, which led to her establishing a budget that reflected $20 million more than the district actually had to spend. The financial transactions made by the finance director were not illegal, but auditors question whether the availability of the money was purposely hidden from the school board and public.

-SNIP-

Auditors found a lack of transparency when management altered the district’s salary schedules. Unlike in past years, for the 2013-14 school year management did not highlight significant changes to administrative pay when it presented the schedules for board approval. The administrative additive was increased from $36,726 to $63,299. Auditors noted that over a four-year period, the average pay increase for high-ranking administrators was 24.7 percent, while the average teacher pay increase was 9.88 percent.

-SNIP-

Auditor Edelen noted that there are currently 11 FCPS teachers asking for money to buy basic supplies for the classrooms – most of which are in high poverty schools – on a national crowd-funding website.

-SNIP-

Auditor Edelen is particularly troubled by the use of a trust fund left to the district by a deceased FCPS teacher for the “enhancement and enrichment of the educational program.” The district can use the interest and up to 10 percent of the principal each year. The fund balance was over $1.1 million as of June 30, 2014.

-SNIP-

The district paid for the director of financial services to receive his superintendent certification. Subsequent to this examination, he refunded the full amount to the district.

-SNIP-

Auditors also found that management circumvented controls and violated its procurement process to contract with a vendor that provides college preparation services. (Finding 4) The contract is a potential conflict of interest, but auditors were unable to determine that the superintendent benefits directly from his relationship with the vendor’s CEO. Auditors identified other possible conflicts of interest in the district during the examination. (Finding 7)

As you can see, some rough stuff. But nothing nearly as terrible as Edelen attempted to hype up. Time for some major changes in Fayette county, though.

The findings:

  1. Weaknesses In Budget And Financial Management Processes Led To Significant Errors In The District’s Working Budgets
  2. The FCPS Working Environment Is Not Conducive to Efficient And Effective Operations
  3. Administrative And Management Salary Increases Outpace Other District Employees, Some Without Appropriate Transparency
  4. FCPS Circumvented District Controls And Did Not Follow Procurement Guidelines
  5. The Mary K. Stoner Trust Fund Is Not Being Used In Accordance With Its Charter
  6. Travel And Professional Development In The Department of Financial Services is Excessive And Often Unnecessary
  7. Conflicts of Interest: Vendors are providing perks to district personnel which could compromise the procurement process.
  8. Monthly Financial Reports To The Board Lack Significant Information
  9. Accounting Weaknesses Within the Department of Financial Services
  10. The Current FCPS Internal Audit Structure Needs Improvement

Can you imagine what would have happened in Montgomery County if Edelen had done his job there instead of ignoring major impropriety, hundreds of thousands in no-bid contracts, nepotism galore, misuse of funds, Title IX violations, illegal financial arrangements, yadda yadda…? Can you imagine?

It’s a shame he and his staff willfully ignored what was handed to them. Instead, he’s focused on Fayette and Jefferson Counties because he wants to drive up his name ID and get in front of as many future voters as possible.

So, when you’re reading this audit — click here (Warning: PDF Link) for a copy of it — just remember that this is merely one of many school districts that are in turmoil. While the audit was necessary, it’s just a mess of picking and choosing and other scandals involving just as much money have gone ignored because they’re in small towns.

And if you’re in Lexington? Time to start kicking ass at school board meetings like they’re doing in Montgomery County.