This Kentucky county failed to collect almost $2 million for ambulance runs

The Clay County government didn’t try to collect nearly $2 million in delinquent bills for ambulance runs over four years, according to an audit released Wednesday.

The failure resulted in less money for the ambulance service in one of Kentucky’s poorest counties, according to state Auditor Mike Harmon’s office.

The audit said the county’s practice was to send letters to people who hadn’t paid bills for being transported by ambulance. The letter said the bill would be turned over to a collection agency.

However, the county didn’t continue to bill delinquent people after six statements and didn’t turn over accounts to collection agencies, the audit said.

The county wrote off a total of $1,986,093 in delinquent bills in the four fiscal years from July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2016, the audit said.

“The practice of forgiving delinquent ambulance bills not only results in lost revenue for the ambulance service but results in preferential management of those accounts,” the audit said.

Clay County Judge-Executive Johnny Johnson said Wednesday that the county put new billing and collections services in place after learning of the audit findings.

The collection service has begun going after delinquent bills, Johnson said.

Johnson was sworn in as judge-executive in January after his predecessor, Joe Lewis Asher, was indicted on charges of using county equipment and supplies, such as drainage tile, for work on private property.

Asher allegedly charged property owners for the work. The former road foreman, Buford Jarvis, was indicted with him.

The cases have not gone to trial.

Wednesday’s findings covered a period before Johnson took over.

The audit also found that Clay County Attorney Clay Massey Bishop Jr.’s office was paid $2,994 for work on a water project that was covered under his regular job duties, meaning the additional pay “was not necessary or allowable.”

The audit also found the county had poor control over use of fuel and equipment at the road department; that it overpaid $115,138 for some work, such as installing guardrails, because it didn’t follow correct bidding procedures; that it didn’t seek required bids on all purchases over $20,000; and that it didn’t have adequate control over receipts, purchasing and payroll.

Johnson said in the audit and an interview that he has taken steps to fix the problems, including improved bidding and purchasing procedures, and more oversight of payroll and receipts.

“I’ve done what the auditors told me to do,” he said. “I’ve changed everything around.”

Johnson said all the county’s accounts are in the black despite the loss of a significant amount of coal-severance money.