Official disputes charges to strip club, escort service

ralessi@herald-leader.comJune 28, 2009 

FRANKFORT — Charges at two Louisville strip clubs and a Lexington escort service called Campus Cuties are among the nearly $20,000 in expenses billed to the Kentucky Association of Counties on the credit card of its former president.

But Spencer County Judge-Executive David Jenkins, who served as KACo's president in 2008, said the charges totaling $620 must have been made by someone else, and KACo and Jenkins are disputing them with the credit card company.

Jenkins is not disputing two charges made at the Lexington Marriott for food and beverages on Feb. 7, 2008, the same day as the escort service expense.

Jenkins said that he learned of the expenses, billed in January and February of 2008, only two weeks ago when he reviewed the statements for his KACo card for the first time. The association's attorney provided him with the documents after the Herald-Leader requested them. The former president's expenses were in addition to the nearly $600,000 in charges by KACo's top executives.

The credit card statements for KACo presidents go straight to the association's headquarters. So no one else at KACo picked up on the expenses at the strip clubs Godfather II and Thorobred Lounge I or the charge to Calypso Enterprises. A phone number for Calypso on the credit card statement is a number listed for Lexington-based Campus Cuties, an escort service that says it offers discreet billing.

"I never got to see those bills. Until I looked at them, I wasn't aware that they were on there," Jenkins said of the charges.

KACo Executive Director Bob Arnold approved paying the credit card bills. He said he didn't raise questions about any of Jenkins' charges.

"And generally, when they came in and they were from him, I probably just asked what the total was," Arnold said.

Tim Sturgill, KACo's general counsel, said that will change immediately. Mike Foster, the Christian County Attorney and current president, and future officers who receive cards will be sent copies of their statements.

In March, Foster implemented a new expense process that calls for Sturgill to serve as chief financial officer and review all KACo credit card charges and expense reimbursements, including the president's.

KACo didn't ask Jenkins and other past presidents to turn in receipts for charges. Under the new policy, they will have to.

KACo filed a claim with its credit card issuer, Central Bank, on Friday to challenge the strip club and escort service charges and ask that they be credited to the account. Arnold said he is hopeful the bank will, even though it is long past the 60-day window for such challenges.

Arnold said he has no reason to doubt Jenkins.

"I didn't even know what that one was," Jenkins said when shown the charge to Calypso.

"We were trying to figure out what that was," he said. "No sir, I don't know anything about it."

Jenkins said his theory is that a former employee of a Louisville business that Jenkins frequents might have stolen and used the card information, although the card itself was not stolen. Jenkins declined to name the business, but said he remembered that a worker there was fired last year for identity theft.

"There's no way," he said, that he would have made charges at strip clubs to his association card.

Jenkins doesn't dispute the $473 he charged at the Hooters Casino for food, drinks and a show while attending a National Association of Counties event in St. George, Utah, in May 2008.

And he said charges at the Belterra Casino in Florence, Ind., in August and November were for KACo business with other county officials.

"It may have just been us getting together to talk about some stuff," he said. "I remember we were up there."

Jenkins also isn't challenging a $97.55 charge on Jan. 10, 2008, at Archibald's & Fast Eddie's Billiards in Washington, D.C., where Jenkins and other KACo officials were attending a National Association of Counties event.

The establishment has a sports bar, pool room and gentlemen's club. Jenkins said he was in the part "wherever the pool hall was."

Even without the disputed charges, Jenkins' spending far outpaces that of the 2007 president, Tony Carriss, a Shelby County magistrate, who charged only $1,473 on his KACo credit card.

LaRue County Judge-Executive Tommy Turner, who served as president a decade ago, said when he took the position he didn't believe it was prudent to have a KACo card.

"I was handed a credit card by the executive director at the time, and I remember standing at his desk with a pair of scissors and cutting it into six pieces," Turner said. "I said, 'I don't think I need this.'"

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