Two associations for county officials have asked the state auditor to help them establish better oversight of expenses in light of spending issues at their sister organization, the Kentucky Association of Counties.
Vince Lang, executive director of the Kentucky County Judge-Executive Association, told county leaders last week at the group's statewide conference that he had asked state Auditor Crit Luallen to review the expense policies at the organization.
"Our executive board looks at all of our policies, all our expenses, all our receipts, but we still could get better," Lang said. "That's why I wanted to have someone from the auditor's office come to our organization."
Terry Sebastian, spokesman for the state auditor, said Luallen offered her help to Lang and will dispatch someone to review the group's procedures and make specific recommendations.
The Kentucky Magistrates and Commissioners Association also will seek guidance from the auditor's office, said that group's executive director, Richard Tanner.
This comes as Luallen's office has begun investigating the Kentucky Association of Counties, a larger organization that provides lobbying and legal services. It also sells insurance and provides project financing to the counties.
The Herald-Leader reported last month that the top five leaders of KACo, which has an annual budget of $7 million, spent $600,000 in two years on travel, meals and other expenses. During that time, KACo paid for $500 hotel rooms, $7,000 dinners and charges to two strip clubs and a Lexington escort service.
Lang told the Herald-Leader that the judge-executive association, which has an annual budget of $312,000 and provides lobbying and other support for judge-executives, has one credit card — in his name — for its three employees.
Lang said that any statewide organization set up for elected officials needs to trust its full-time staff, but that checks and balances need to be put in place.
"I'm the first one who will say I don't think it's as structured as it needs to be," Lang said.
Tanner, the executive director of the magistrates and commissioners group, said the organization — which has two staff members and a $231,000 annual budget — created an internal auditing committee this month to oversee expenses. The three-person committee is led by the group's treasurer and includes two members who aren't on the organization's board.
The group created the committee after the Herald-Leader wrote about KACo and the Kentucky League of Cities, Tanner said. "We wanted to stay in front of the curve and make sure we're doing what we need to."
Officials who serve on the boards of KACo and the League are reviewing their policies even as Luallen's auditors begin combing through their financial records.