Weak rationale for luxury boxes

Say this for the folks who used to head up the Kentucky League of Cities and the Kentucky Association of Counties: At their most wasteful with the public dollars entrusted to them, they didn't blow $137,000 on luxury suites at a football stadium and basketball arena.

Dismas Charities, a non-profit that runs prison halfway houses on state and federal dimes, did — $92,000 for a suite at Louisville's new KFC Yum! Center and $45,000 for similar accommodations at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

Other than being a bit more brazen, Dismas' top brass has a lot in common with the KACo and KLC officials whose free-spending ways scandalized taxpayers.

They see nothing wrong with what they've done, they remain unapologetic and they have come up with a contrived rationalization for claiming no public money was involved.

These luxury suites were bought with money earned from an investment, Dismas CEO Ray Weiss and board chairman James Simon said at a news conference last week.

Of course, money Dismas received under state and federal contracts paid for the initial investment. But that's just a mere technicality. No public money went into the purchase of these luxury suites.

Really? Honest? No kidding?

One other thing Dismas officials have in common with the KACo and KLC wastrels is a love for compensation packages large enough to boggle the minds of ordinary taxpayers.

Weiss' total compensation in 2008 was $600,546. Executive Vice President Jan Kempf got a total of $452,047 for the same year.

Combined with the expenditures on luxury suites, such compensation packages at a non-profit that gets virtually all of its money from taxpayers justify state Rep. Brent Yonts' call for state Auditor Crit Luallen to investigate Dismas.

Dismas officials are scheduled to meet with Luallen Thursday.

Given the outrage generated by wasteful spending at other non-profits, they would be wise to cooperate fully in any probe Luallen might launch, lest public wrath cause state and federal governments to think twice about renewing Dismas' contracts.