mayor's appointees

Gray appointee steps down amid questions about property

Pick for General services commissioner withdraws; code violations an issue

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comJanuary 15, 2011 

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray's nominee for commissioner of general services, Bob Ramsey, withdrew from consideration Thursday after Gray postponed Ramsey's confirmation hearing, Gray spokeswoman Susan Straub said Friday.

The hearing was postponed to investigate questions involving code-enforcement violations at a property that Ramsey owned at 244 East Fourth Street, Straub said.

"We had information that went back to 2001 indicating that there had been 17 complaints to the Division of Code Enforcement on that property between 2001 and present," Straub said.

Instead of joining Gray's team, Ramsey will return to a job in Washington, D.C., she said. The commissioner of general services oversees parks and recreation, and facilities and fleet management.

Ramsey declined the Herald-Leader's request for comment, Straub said.

Ramsey previously served five years as commissioner of general services under Mayor Pam Miller.

Straub said the mayor had been satisfied with Ramsey's explanation about issues that arose in 2000 that led Miller to remove Ramsey as interim director of the Division of Code Enforcement. Ramsey kept the post of commissioner of general services during Miller's administration.

The Herald-Leader reported in 2000 that Miller removed Ramsey from the interim post after he acknowledged approaching the agency on behalf of his father-in-law, whose property had been condemned.

Ramsey also was personnel secretary under Gov. Ernie Fletcher. The Herald-Leader reported in 2004 that Fletcher reassigned Ramsey after a failed plan to cut the state's cost on health care benefits for teachers and state workers. The Personnel Cabinet was in charge of the workers' insurance coverage.

Straub said Friday that Ramsey's time in the Fletcher administration was not a factor in the decision to postpone Ramsey's confirmation hearing.

"Our focus was more on the issues that arose in local government," she said.

Straub said that it's not unusual when appointees are being confirmed to have questions arise.

"What's important is how you react to them," Straub said. "Do you respond quickly? Do you respond decisively and openly? That's what Mayor Gray has done."

Straub said a replacement for Ramsey will be named "but no decisions have been made so far."

Meanwhile, the Urban County Council's confirmation hearings for Gray's other appointees continue.

Law Commissioner Janet Graham was confirmed Thursday and Chief Administrative Officer Richard Moloney is scheduled to be confirmed Jan. 27.

Jane Driskell, Commissioner of Finance and Administration; Cheryl Taylor, Commissioner of Public Works and Environmental Quality; and Commissioner of Social Services Beth Mills are scheduled to be confirmed Feb. 1.

Straub said the administration has no concerns about any of the remaining nominees, but cautioned that "issues often arise in these situations."

The Courier-Journal of Louisville reported in March 2010 that a year-end state audit of Louisville's government, where Driskell then served as the chief financial officer, raised questions about the city's accounting practices.

The state was unable to substantiate more than $46 million in the city's deferred revenue account or accounts receivable because of accounting practices that were out of compliance with generally accepted accounting principles, the newspaper reported.

The city responded with a 182-point corrective action plan to improve accounting practices.

Former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson gave Driskell high marks in an interview Friday.

"She did a superb job," he said. "... She handled the budget as a pro. She handled financial policy as a pro."

Reach Valarie Honeycutt Spears at (859) 231-3409 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3409.

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