Taxpayers are investing more than $700 million to improve the Mountain Parkway, beginning in Magoffin County. But no matter how wide the road, private investment will not flow into a place that's viewed as corrupt.
It's hoped that a better road will spur economic development. That's why all taxpayers should be outraged by Magoffin's election-related antics, most recently the hiring of a convicted vote-buyer by Judge-Executive Charles "Doc" Hardin as an administrative assistant.
The relevant issue is not whether a felon deserves a job. The relevant issue is the evidence of wrongdoing in recent races for Magoffin's top office and now the appearance, created by this hiring, that the county exec condones vote buying.
Much research has shown that corruption impedes economic development. Businesses, which always want to reduce uncertainties, will frown on a place where you can't even count on election results until they've been run through the courts.
Hardin's new aide, Randy Salyer was convicted of vote buying after the 2010 election.
The year before that, Hardin's deputy judge-executive, who also is his son, was sentenced to 20 years for soliciting sex from a minor and downloading 600 child pornography images on his office computer.
After last November's election, Circuit Judge John David Preston threw out Hardin's victory over Republican John P. Montgomery, citing multiple improprieties, including vote buying.
A three-judge appeals panel upheld the judge's decision to vacate the office.
"We are not sure which candidate won the election, but we know who lost — the voters of Magoffin County who were entitled to confidence in the fairness and integrity of their election," the ruling said.
Hardin is hanging on to the office while the full Court of Appeals considers his case.
Meanwhile, reconstruction and widening of the Mountain Parkway is underway in Magoffin County.
The project will widen 30 miles of the parkway from two to four lanes and extend the parkway 16 miles by widening Ky. 114 between Salyersville, Magoffin's seat, and Prestonsburg in Floyd County. Two Magoffin inter changes are being reconstructed and a big curve eliminated.
Hardin said Salyer's first task would be overseeing an important road project at an industrial site.
Until Magoffin finds a way to clean up its local government, all the new roads most likely will be used by people who are leaving.