Herald-Leader spending series wins award

August 4, 2009 

NEW YORK — A series of investigations into how several quasi-governmental organizations in Kentucky spend tax dollars has earned the Lexington Herald-Leader a Public Service Award from the Associated Press Managing Editors Association.

APME, an association of editors at AP's 1,500 member newspapers in the United States and newspapers served by the Canadian Press in Canada, recognizes journalism excellence with annual awards in five categories.

This year's winners were selected during a meeting of the association's board of directors in New York. The awards will be presented during the group's annual conference Oct. 28 to 30 in St. Louis.

The Herald-Leader won the Public Service Award given to newspapers with a circulation of 40,000 to 150,000. In the large-circulation category, the Seattle Times won for an investigation into the spread of a deadly drug-resistant staph germ at hospitals in Washington state. Among newspapers with fewer than 40,000 readers, the Virgin Islands Daily News of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, won for uncovering life-threatening corruption at the only cancer center in the Virgin Islands.

The Herald-Leader's "It's Your Money" series, which began late last year, has examined spending at Blue Grass Airport, the Lexington Public Library, Kentucky League of Cities and Kentucky Association of Counties.

The stories revealed that the groups had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on questionable travel, meals and other expenses.

After the initial airport stories appeared, the director of the airport resigned, as did several top members of his staff.

In addition, State Auditor Crit Luallen completed an audit of the airport and issued 28 recommendations to help other groups that receive taxpayer money avoid similar situations. Luallen also has launched an audit of the League and KACo.

The Urban County Government is conducting an audit of the public library. In July, the top two officers on the library's board were replaced by the mayor; the board then fired the agency's chief executive.

Judges for the Public Service awards were past APME presidents David Hawpe, vice president and editorial director of The Courier-Journal of Louisville; David Ledford, editor of The News Journal of Wilmington, Del.; current APME President Bobbie Jo Buel, editor of the Arizona Daily Star of Tucson; and Kristin Gazlay, AP vice president and managing editor for financial news and global training.

The association also recognized The Courier-Journal of Louisville in the First Amendment category, for an examination of the University of Louisville Foundation.

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