Fayette County

Locally elected officials reject state’s request to rebid workforce training grant

The Bluegrass Area Development District building at 699 Perimeter Dr. in Lexington, Ky., on Monday, March 8, 2014.
The Bluegrass Area Development District building at 699 Perimeter Dr. in Lexington, Ky., on Monday, March 8, 2014. Herald-Leader Staff

A group of locally elected officials decided Wednesday it will not rebid an up to $11.4 million workforce training grant and will stick with its decision to award the 18-month grant to the Bluegrass Area Development District despite requests from the state’s top workforce official to rebid the contract.

The executive committee of elected officials of the 17-county workforce region voted Wednesday that two of its members will meet with state officials as early as next week to explain why they felt the grant did not need to be rebid.

In a letter last week, Cabinet Education and Workforce Development Secretary Hal Heiner said information Bluegrass provided to the locally elected officials about its 2014 state auditor examination and investigations by two state agencies was “incomplete and inaccurate.”

The locally elected officials, who award the area federal workforce training dollars, awarded the contract to Bluegrass on Jan. 7. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray was the sole no vote. Gray has said he thought all the bidders should have an opportunity to interview with the group before a final decision was made.

Bluegrass was one of three bidders for the federal grant, which provides training for under-employed and unemployed workers in the 17-county region that includes Fayette County.

One of the two other bidders, Community Action of Kentucky, filed challenge to the bid with local, state and federal agencies last week.

During the meeting Wednesday at the Embassy Suites on Leestown Road, several members of the executive committee said they felt that the group had followed all of the bid procedures and had full knowledge of the 2014 state auditor examination and the two other state examinations.

Many of the locally-elected officials also sit on the executive board of the Bluegrass Area Development District. Some spent part of the meeting Wednesday defending the locally elected officials decision to select Bluegrass as the administrator of the workforce training dollars and at the same time defending the Bluegrass district. Former state auditor Adam Edelen’s 2014 examination questioned the long-standing conflicts of interest between the locally elected officials that can select the workforce training grant administrator and the Bluegrass Development District.

Jon Gay, a lawyer representing the locally elected officials, said after the meeting that the bid challenge filed by Community Action of Kentucky will be reviewed by the Finance and Administration Cabinet. If the cabinet decides to accept the bid challenge, all of the parties will have 14 days to file responses to that challenge.