Special Reports

KACo delays hiring, will interview finalists

FRANKFORT — In a surprise move, the board of directors for the Kentucky Association of Counties decided Monday to interview four finalists for the organization's top position rather than go with the candidate selected by an 11-member committee earlier this month.

After meeting for nearly three hours behind closed doors, board members of the organization that has been criticized for its rampant spending were mum on the reason the board decided to interview four finalists selected from the more than 60 who applied for the job.

The selection committee had recommended former state auditor and attorney Ed Hatchett for the executive director's position on Dec. 21.

In a written statement, Rick Smith, president of KACo and a Clark County magistrate, said the full board wanted the opportunity to interview the four finalists: Hatchett; Denny Nunnelley, a long-time KACO deputy director; Bill Patrick, executive director of the Kentucky County Attorneys Association and a former county official; and Tony Wilder, commissioner for local government, a former county official and a past president of the KACo board.

"In light of our fiduciary duties, the full board would like the opportunity to interview the final candidates prior to voting on a new chief executive officer," Smith said.

He said the board would like to have the interviews as quickly as possible, but he said it is unlikely the board will make a final decision by Jan. 5, when the legislative session begins.

The group discussed the candidates in executive session, which is closed to the public. Personnel matters can be discussed in private under the state's open meetings law.

Bob Arnold, the former executive director, resigned in September in wake of repeated questions about the organization's spending. The Herald-Leader reported the organization spent more than $600,000 in two years on travel, meals and entertainment. State Auditor Crit Luallen later found more than $3 million in undocumented or excessive spending. Luallen had supported the search committtee's recommendation of Hatchett for the job.

Many on the search committee said Hatchett's reputation would restore credibility to the organization, which provides services and insurance to local governments and helps finance capital projects. But many members of the board of directors have expressed concern about oversight of the organization, saying they wanted to be move involved in the day-to-day operations in light of the organizations' recent spending scandals.

Marshall County Judge-Executive Mike Miller, a member of the board of directors, said before Monday's meeting there was some concern the process to replace Arnold was moving too quickly.

"We thought (the search committee) was going to bring two or three names to the full board to interview," Miller said. "In early December, we learned that they were going to provide just one name to the full board."

Hatchett could not be reached for comment.

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