A league of their own

Acting KLC director to retire at end of year

eligible to receive up to $9,000 a month

lblackford@herald-leader.comMay 11, 2010 

Neil Hackworth, acting executive director of the Kentucky League of Cities

Neil Hackworth, the acting executive director of the Kentucky League of Cities, will retire at the end of the year and will not be a candidate to become the executive director.

Hackworth, 62, has been serving in that temporary role since January, when Sylvia Lovely stepped down from the job after a series of Herald-Leader articles detailed large salaries, big expense accounts and conflicts of interest at the organization. A state audit excoriated the group for hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable spending.

Hackworth started at the League in 1995 and served as its deputy executive director and chief operations officer for more than 12 years. Previously, he was mayor of Shelbyville for 13 years and served as KLC's president in 1991.

"I have devoted almost 30 years of my life to municipal government and KLC, and I am still as passionate as ever about this organization and what it means to this state," said Hackworth. "However, it is time for me to step aside to allow new leadership the opportunity to continue building on KLC's past successes."

Hackworth said he will be spending more time with his wife, children and grandchildren before pursuing other opportunities.

"Neil Hackworth has made an immeasurable contribution not only to the success of the organization but to the success of Kentucky's cities and the state during his tenure with KLC," said KLC Executive Board President and Jackson Mayor Mike Miller.

Hackworth's salary in 2008 was $255,248, according to the state audit. Because League employees are part of the state's County Employee Retirement System, Hackworth could be eligible to receive pension payments of as much as $9,000 a month when he retires, according to the estimate of an online benefits calculator.

The Kentucky League of Cities is continuing its search for a new executive director with the help of a search firm. At least five of its member cities called for new leadership at the top of the organization after a state audit criticized Hackworth and, more severely, Insurance Services Director William Hamilton for questionable spending and conflicts of interest.

The audit described a climate of entitlement at the League, despite the fact that its highly profitable insurance and finance arms were funded with premiums and payments from member cities' tax dollars.

Specifically, Hackworth was identified as spending more than $40,000 without a clear business purpose or with little or no documentation. He was also part of a $500,000 forgivable loan program that allowed executive staff to buy five extra years in the state's retirement system as a bonus program.

The audit also said Hackworth bought a 2005 Volvo sport utility vehicle from the League's vehicle pool for $9,000; the actual value of the car was at least $15,623.

Hackworth has overseen many recent policy changes, including fewer employee credit cards, an end to the League paying for spousal travel and more oversight of expenses.

But the change won't be enough for Alan Baldwin, a Morehead City Council member who has called for the ouster of Hackworth and Hamilton.

"I'm still disappointed in the executive board's inability to come to grips with the fact that employees who have violated public trust shouldn't be allowed to pick their retirement date," Baldwin said. "It is truly a shame they will pay him some exorbitant salary until the end of this year. Maybe it's a step in the right direction, but it doesn't make me have any greater faith or confidence in the executive board."

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