Fayette County

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray resigns from Bluegrass ADD board

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, giving his state of the city address in January. Gray resigned from Bluegrass Area Development District, effective Friday.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, giving his state of the city address in January. Gray resigned from Bluegrass Area Development District, effective Friday. cbertram@herald-leader.com

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray has resigned from the executive committee of the Bluegrass Area Development District.

Gray gave no reason for his resignation in a one-sentence letter obtained Monday by the Lexington Herald-Leader. Gray’s resignation was submitted Friday and is effective immediately.

Susan Straub, a spokeswoman for Gray, said Gray opted to resign because he was frequently the only “no” vote on the executive committee.

“Mayor Gray has long been concerned about many practices of the Bluegrass ADD,” Straub said. “As a member of its executive board, he has encouraged change. After a series of votes over several months where he cast the lone dissenting vote on a variety of issues, the mayor resigned from the Bluegrass ADD Friday and is focusing his attention on workforce services.”

Gray’s resignation from the quasi-government agency comes after more than three years of trouble at the Lexington-headquartered group that oversees planning, aging and workforce training programs for a 17-county region that includes Fayette County.

In late May, Gov. Matt Bevin notified Bluegrass that the state will terminate its contract with the agency on July 1 because of lingering questions about the agency’s oversight of millions of dollars in federal workforce training money.

The Bluegrass executive committee voted in early June to appeal the state’s decision to the U.S. Department of Labor. Bluegrass also is appealing an earlier order that it repay the state nearly $900,000 in federal workforce dollars that the state alleges was misspent from 2010 to 2013. Much of those questioned costs were related to rent payments made to a nonprofit that owned the group’s building on Perimeter Drive. That nonprofit was started by a founding director of Bluegrass.

Many members of the Bluegrass executive committee have said the problems at the agency were corrected years ago. It ousted the executive director and has worked with state officials to correct all financial oversight problems. But in a letter sent to Bluegrass officials in late May, Bevin said state Education and Workforce Cabinet officials recently completed a review of 2015 spending at the agency and found “excessive travel expenses and questionable documentary support for use of program funds on authorized activities. Moreover, it appears there is a lack of independent verification of training completion and employment outcomes for participants in the programs.”

Gray has frequently been at odds with other members of Bluegrass’s executive committee, which includes elected officials from the 17-county area. Most recently, Gray was the only member of the executive committee to vote against appealing the state’s decision to terminate Bluegrass from the federal workforce program at a meeting in early June.

The amount Bluegrass has received to oversee the area’s workforce training has fluctuated each year. It was awarded the bid for the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1. Bluegrass said it was going to spend approximately $11.4 million on workforce training, but that figure included carry-over dollars from previous years.

The state has hired two Louisville organizations to oversee Bluegrass’s area workforce training programs beginning July 1.

Lexington receives federal aging money through Bluegrass to run some of its senior programs.

David Duttlinger, the executive director of Bluegrass, said Gray’s resignation will have no bearing on Lexington’s senior programming money. Duttlinger said Clay City Mayor James Caudill, the chairman of the Bluegrass executive committee, will appoint a new member from Fayette County to serve on the executive committee at the board’s meeting in July. There are other Fayette County members on the committee including Fayette County Judge Executive John Roberts.

“Nothing in a letter of resignation will affect the level of services provided to Fayette County through the Bluegrass ADD,” Duttlinger said.

Caudill did not immediately return phone calls Monday.

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall