Here's hoping state auditors delve into conditions on the front lines of the Bluegrass Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board's operations.
Taxpayers need to know if the public agency's $31 million in reserves and its lofty pay at the top have come at the expense of those at the bottom, both employees and clients.
Just a whiff of scrutiny is already bringing at least cosmetic change to the Lexington-based non-profit.
Until staff writer John Cheves' reporting in the June 3 Herald-Leader, many Bluegrass employees thought the agency, like others in government, had been squeezed into budgetary belt-tightening by declining revenues.
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After all, the workers had gone for several years without raises. According to at least one former employee, they had been told to hold spending on lunches in day-therapy programs to about $5 a week per patient. That's tight.
What a surprise then for employees to read that Bluegrass is sitting on a $31 million nest egg and that the current and former CEOs — who happen to be married to each other — had together received more than $1 million in compensation in 2010.
State Auditor Adam Edelen announced June 7 that his office was launching an examination of the policies, accounts, transactions, governance and other activities of Bluegrass and its related organizations.
And then, lo and behold, the board suddenly is eager to approve employee salary increases or one-time bonuses at a specially called meeting Thursday.
Board chairman Scott Gould and chief executive officer Shannon Ware have sent letters to the 2,300 employees saying the recent lack of raises "weighs heavily on the board and leadership."
It's amazing how the weight became more noticeable as the level of public scrutiny rose.
Bluegrass, known informally as "comp care," serves some of the most vulnerable Kentuckians in a 17-county area and also has state contracts to manage Eastern State Hospital and Oakwood in Somerset.
Bluegrass is a complex organization and, by many measures, highly successful. The bottom line, though, is how effectively it's marshaling public funds to care for clients. Any light the auditor can shed on that, and other questions, would be a public service.