Four vehicles sold by a state agency at an “employees only” sale in 2014 fetched prices that are 70 percent or more below their current value, according to Transportation Cabinet records.
The sale of those vehicles by the Administrative Office of the Courts is under investigation by Attorney General Andy Beshear’s office, the AOC acknowledged last week. One employee has been placed on leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
The AOC has refused to release any information about the sales in question, but documents obtained by the Herald-Leader this week from the state Transportation Cabinet show that some of the 225 employees at the AOC’s Frankfort headquarters got extremely good deals.
For example, one such worker paid $1,250 in September 2014 for a 2008 Chevrolet Impala with 116,181 miles. Less than two years later, Glenn Nissan in Lexington resold the same car for $4,500, according to transportation records.
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The 2008 Impala brought the highest price in the AOC’s vehicle auction. The lowest was $300, according to the Transportation Cabinet.
It is unclear how many bids were made on those vehicles, or even how many surplus vehicles have been sold by the AOC since they began holding employee-only sales in 2013. The AOC has refused to provide that information, citing the ongoing investigation. Leigh Anne Hiatt, a spokeswoman for the AOC, said she does not know when the investigation might conclude.
The Kentucky Open Records Act would require any other public agency to release the documents requested by the newspaper, but the judicial branch of state government is not subject to that law.
The newspaper, however, obtained a Sept. 11, 2014, email sent by J. Scott Brown, the AOC’s executive office of administrative services, to employees at AOC headquarters that said he was accepting bids on five decommissioned fleet vehicles. He only listed the Vehicle Identification Numbers for four of the vehicles, which the Herald-Leader used to find information about the cars from the Transportation Cabinet.
The documents, which did not identify who purchased the vehicles, indicate the cars were sold at deep discounts.
▪ A blue 2007 Chevrolet Impala with 108,920 miles was purchased for $832.16, or 79 percent off its current Kelley Blue Book value of $3,951.
▪ A 2008 Chevrolet Impala with 116,181 miles was purchased for $1,250, or 70 percent off its current Kelley Blue Book value of $4,202.
▪ A 2003 Chevrolet Impala with 208,286 miles was purchased for $300, or 75 percent off its current Kelley Blue Book value of $1,202.
▪ A 2006 Chevrolet Impala with 158,828 miles was purchased for $600, or 78 percent off its current Kelley Blue Book value of $2,799.
The employees who purchased the 2003 Impala and 2006 Impala have kept their cars. The employee who bought the 2007 Impala transferred ownership of the vehicle in February 2015. It was salvaged in September.
The records show that all four vehicles were owned by the Administrative Office of the Courts before being purchased by private individuals, but there are discrepancies between the data and what Brown listed in his email to employees.
For example, Brown listed the 2007 Impala that sold for $832.16 as a 2006 Impala with 47,000 more miles than the car actually had at the time. He also listed the 2008 Impala as one from 2007.
Brown’s email also said all vehicles had to be removed from AOC property by September 15, 2014, but the AOC did not surrender the title for the 2003 Impala until October 27, 2014.
Last week, Hiatt said the AOC has begun discussions to give control of surplus sales to the executive branch of state government, which holds periodic public auctions of surplus goods. On Wednesday, Chief Justice John Minton signed a Supreme Court order setting guidelines that forbid the AOC from holding private sales of surplus goods for employees.
The AOC is the administrative arm of Kentucky’s court system. It administers the budget for the judicial branch of state government, is responsible for court facilities, maintaining court statistics, administering personnel policies and payroll. It has an annual budget of $74.85 million.