Auditor: Perry County clerk mishandled funds

A state auditor's report says Perry County Clerk Haven King mishandled his payroll and used taxpayer money to fund charitable efforts and pay for some personal campaign merchandise.

The reports have been referred to the state attorney general's office for investigation.

"We are recommending that the county clerk avoid expenses that do not meet the standard requiring that clerk expenditures of public funds be necessary for the operation of the office," state Auditor Crit Luallen said in a press release. "Since a fee official handles tax dollars, it's imperative that all guidelines and standards are followed to ensure proper oversight of taxpayers' funds."

The audits of King's 2007 and 2008 finances were released Tuesday. Among the findings:

■ The county clerk's office spent about $2,400 on items to encourage voting that were printed with "Haven King Your VOTE is Your Voice" and "Haven King Perry County Clerk." State law disallows personal imprinting on office items, the audit said. In a response contained in the audit, King disputed that the items were predominantly personal, despite his name.

■ Several office employees were overpaid for the time they worked at the county's Black Gold Festival. The clerk's office set up a booth to help train festivalgoers on the use of new voting machines. Employees received more than $6,000 in duplicate payments — they were paid their regular salary, plus extra pay for working the festival, but proper tax withholdings and IRS reporting were not done, the audit said. King said the employees were compensated at their hourly rate and ran a successful training program.

■ About $7,500 was spent on printing T-shirts and other paraphernalia touting the county's HAVE (Help a Veteran Everyday) and Hope For Tomorrow charitable efforts for veterans. King responded that the county raised thousands for the Kentucky Veteran Trust Fund, and expenditures were approved by the county fiscal court. Expenditures by the clerk's office are required by state law to be "necessary" to the operation of the office, and charitable efforts are not, the auditor's report said.

In all, King was asked to personally reimburse the county $27,540 for those and other disallowed expenses from 2007 and 2008.

The audits also questioned $19,510 spent on a clerk's office renovation project. The fiscal court deemed the costs reasonable on Aug. 27 of this year, King said in his response.