At issue | April 8 Herald-Leader news report, "Beshear signs bills to keep KACo, KLC in check; accountability, transparency required"
The Kentucky Association of Counties was founded in 1974 to provide important services to Kentucky's counties and county officials.
That has always been and remains KACo's primary objective. Even some of our strongest critics have acknowledged that the association does a good job providing services to Kentucky counties.
The events that led to the decision by the General Assembly to pass Senate Bill 88 were regrettable and KACo has taken full responsibility for those relating to our association.
More importantly, the board of directors took steps well in advance of that legislation that put us in compliance with most of its provisions even before it was passed.
In its 36-year history, KACo has not had a more disappointing year than we had in 2009. It was especially difficult for the hard-working staff who had nothing whatsoever to do with the issues addressed in those newspaper stories.
I was pleased for our staff that the state auditor's office acknowledged its work in the audit. In the news release that accompanied the report, state auditors said: "By all accounts, KACo has provided quality services and savings to the counties through its programs."
We can't change the past, but we can certainly do something about the future.
That process started even before the Herald-Leader wrote its first article about KACo and continues today. Former KACo president Mike Foster, Christian County attorney, first raised the issue of credit card oversight at our December 2008 executive committee meeting.
By June of 2009, KACo had created an Audit and Finance Committee that produced a series of structural changes that the board adopted in September of last year. As a result of those initial changes, which included passing a code of ethics, KACo was in substantial compliance with many of the state audit's recommendations even before it was released at the end of October.
We continue to address those recommendations and will review our progress on a regular basis under the watchful eye of the state auditor's office and the general public.
KACo did not oppose SB 88 in part because most of its requirements were already in effect before that legislation was ever introduced.
Complying with open records and open meetings laws has never been the issue for KACo that it is for other organizations. We have adhered to those laws for many years.
We have already adopted a code of ethics for members of the board, officers and employees. We have already held training sessions for members of the board of directors regarding their legal and fiduciary responsibilities.
KACo worked closely with members of the General Assembly on SB 88 to produce legislation that would provide transparency and accountability in a way that would not put Kentucky's counties at a financial disadvantage relating to our insurance programs and other financial services.
Because of the actions of the executive committee and board of directors under the leadership of this year's president Rick Smith, and the determined work of the staff, our association is already a better managed, more transparent and more accountable organization than it was 18 months ago.
Most important to Kentucky's counties, however, is the fact that our programs are as strong as ever. They are well run and fiscally sound and are growing to meet the needs of Kentucky's counties in the future.
Not only is KACo saving counties money, it is even giving money back. For the past several months, the insurance division has been crisscrossing the state delivering dividend checks to fiscal courts from the KACo All Lines Fund. In a few weeks, we will announce details of a major new program that will enable counties to finance projects in their own names at substantial savings.
My goals for KACo are simple:
■ To provide outstanding service to our members as efficiently and effectively as possible.
■ To provide programs and services that save taxpayers money.
■ To effectively represent the interests of Kentucky's county governments in Frankfort.
■ And to do it in a way that will make all Kentuckians proud of the Kentucky Association of Counties.
It is my hope, that 2009 will ultimately be remembered for how KACo responded to criticism and started on the road to becoming a model for other organizations to emulate.