FRANKFORT — The former Fayette County property valuation administrator agreed this week to pay a $2,000 fine to settle allegations that she hired her mother in violation of state ethics laws.
Renee True, who resigned from the post in 2008 and now goes by Renee Harper, was one of 11 PVAs who were investigated by the Executive Branch Ethics Commission in 2007 for violating the state's anti-nepotism law.
True, who was PVA for 16 years, declined to comment through her attorney, Luke Morgan. He said True wanted to put the issue behind her.
PVAs assess the value of property for tax purposes.
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The PVAs challenged the Executive Branch Ethics Commission's authority to police them, arguing that they were not part of the executive branch of state government. A Franklin Circuit Court judge originally sided with the PVAs, but the state Court of Appeals reversed the lower court's ruling.
Six of the 11 PVAs who were accused of hiring a family member have settled their cases or been charged by the commission. The other five have had administrative hearings, but the cases remain unresolved, said John Steffen, executive director of the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.
In court documents, the PVAs argued that they were elected county officials and therefore were not subject to executive branch ethics. The commission argued that PVAs were governed by the state Department of Revenue.
The PVAs also argued that they had received mixed information from state officials and the ethics commission about whether it was OK to hire a family member.
True told the Herald-Leader in April 2007, when she was running for lieutenant governor, that her mother first worked for the office before she became PVA. Her mother, Linda Taulbee, started at the PVA office when True's former husband was PVA.
Revenue department records show that after Renee True took office, Taulbee retired but she was rehired two months later as a seasonal employee. When that five-month position ended, True hired Taulbee again.
True said at the time that she did not remember her mother retiring and being rehired. True also said in the 2007 interview that she was not aware of any laws prohibiting the hiring of family members.
After retiring, True ran for her former position in 2010 but was defeated by David O'Neill, the current Fayette County PVA, in the Democratic primary.