By Ronica Shannon
Senior News Writer
Kentucky State Auditor Adam Edelen is now apologizing for information posted on the office’s website that accompanied his recent report, “Ghost Government: A Report on Special Districts in Kentucky.”
“I want to thank the visitors to this new site for their patience this week as we’ve worked to fix glitches and errors,” Edelen wrote in his apology. “I understand the frustration of many who had done the right thing and it was not accurately reflected initially. … this is an imperfect report and database because nobody in Kentucky has ever attempted to answer these questions about special districts. My office is committed to making other corrections as soon as they are brought to our attention.”
Representatives of two of the 13 “special districts” in Madison County have voiced their concern about the report’s accuracy.
Madison County Coroner Jimmy Cornelison said he was definitely going to bring some things to Edelen’s attention by writing him a letter.
Cornelison said he became aware in July of what the Auditor of Public Accounts was reporting on the website in regards to the Madison County Ambulance Taxing District. He has served as the director of Madison County’s Emergency Medical Services since 1992.
He called the auditor’s office in July to make his staff aware that the information on the website was inaccurate and was told him “not to worry about it,” Cornelison said. “We have called them more than once about it.”
When Cornelison read the Richmond Register story published over the weekend, his response was summed up in one word.
“Anger,” he said. “I’ve done this 35 years, and to my knowledge, we’ve always been compliant.”
Monday morning, the secretary for Madison County EMS asked another employee if Cornelison was going to fire her because of Edelen’s report.
“That’s what this causes,” he said, referring to the inaccurate reporting on the auditor’s site. “There’s some people who are probably in hot water across the Commonwealth because of this. It’s ridiculous. And to put what he put on the website ? How many people are going to look at that? You have to jump through hoops to get to (the apology).”
Edelen’s apology can be viewed by going to http://apps.auditor.ky.gov/public/theregistry/cai.html.
Things such as “glitches” and “errors” should not be stemming from the state auditor’s office, Cornelison said.
Another inaccuracy on the list of districts is that one is listed as “Madison County Tourism.”
“There is no such thing,” said Madison Judge-Executive Kent Clark.
Although the elected governing bodies of both Richmond and Berea levy taxes on the tourism industry in their respective jourisdictions, under state law they appoint separate commissions to operate their tourism departments. The county levies no tourism tax.
Karen Bailey, spokesperson for Kentucky River Foothills Community Development Council, said the “NA” on Edelen’s chart stands for “not applicable” rather than “not available.”
The online chart has NA listed for the organization in the category of UFIR (Uniform Financial Information Report).
“The KRFDC does not have the ability to tax,” Bailey said about the non-profit organization. Therefore, the KRFDC does not have information to report in this category.
The 100-page report released around the middle of this month, documents all of Kentucky’s “special districts,” which are defined in the report as being any agency, authority, or political subdivision of the state which exercises less than statewide jurisdiction and which is organized for the purpose of performing governmental or other prescribed functions within limited boundaries.
“Special districts are a multi-billion dollar layer of government – rivaling county governments in sheer size – that operate outside any uniform system of accountability,” Edelen writes in his report.
“Special districts number more than 1,200. In 117 of our 120 counties, taxpayers collectively pay more to these special districts than they do to their elected county governments.”
Four central themes were found throughout the report’s findings and recommendations: The need for statutory reform; stronger safeguards or “teeth” in the laws and regulatory framework to compel compliance; establishment of a centralized registry for special districts; and the need for education of stakeholders.
Visit http://apps.auditor.ky.gov/public/theregistry/cai.html for more information about Edelen’s report.
Ronica Shannon can be reached at rshannon