Thanks to citizens who blew whistle; Audit confirms agency's 'rogue' management

March 5, 2014 

The Blue Grass Area Development District has a 75-member board, at least 34 of whom are elected officials.

So, in the 40-plus years of the agency's existence literally scores of public officials have served on the board of what state Auditor Adam Edelen described yesterday as an agency with "rogue management" that "conducted activities far outside its scope," spent federal money for questionable purposes and failed to report possible criminal activity.

While in the end some of those public officials, including Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, did move to stop the agency's abuses and bring in the auditors, it was determined private citizens, working in their spare time, who blew the whistle on the self-serving fiefdom.

The River Park Neighborhood Association in Lexington raised questions in early 2012, shortly after the ADD bought a property in the neighborhood to house and train non-violent ex-felons.

And they didn't stop.

Then-ADD Executive Director Lenny Stolz II sighed about the "exaggeration and misinformation" over the project.

Neighbors brought their case to council member George Myers and the entire Urban County Council.

They made requests for information under Kentucky's Open Records Act, which were denied because they weren't submitted on the correct form.

They appealed to the attorney general's office, which characterized the reason for denying the request as a "hackneyed canard," and ordered the ADD to answer the questions.

The ADD said it was a state agency and so didn't have to obey local zoning laws.

The neighbors, with the help of state Rep. Susan Westrom and Lexington city government, again appealed to the attorney general's office, which agreed it's not exempt from zoning restrictions.

The neighbors also challenged the authority of an ADD — created principally as a conduit for federal funds to the region — to operate programs.

Again, the AG agreed, saying it could only do so if asked by the local government.

There is more to say about the auditor's dreadful revelations yesterday about the tangled web at the Blue Grass ADD. It is not a story that will restore anyone's faith in government.

But it should remind us that democracy depends upon dedicated, passionate citizens who give up hours of their time and a lot of their energy to advocate for their communities.

And it should serve as a warning to those public servants who view their positions as personal entitlements that they are only one determined neighborhood association away from being discovered.

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