REPORT: Ky. Emergency Management Office misused taxpayer money - WDRB 41 Louisville News

REPORT: Ky. Emergency Management Office misused taxpayer money

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky's Emergency Management office used taxpayer money to fund entertainment, alcohol and much more.

Those are the findings of a special investigation just released by auditor Adam Edelen.

The report identifies $5.6 million dollars in questionable purchases between 2007 and 2012, including money spent during conferences at the Galt House. Edelen says workers who knew of wrongdoing were threatened to keep quiet. He says invoices were even changed to hide misuse of state funds.

The state's Division of Emergency Management responds during natural disasters and receives significant funded through FEMA.

Auditor Adam Edelen did not hold back during an interview with WDRB's Gilbert Corsey.

"Kentucky is a poor state, and a poor state doesn't have the luxury of being dumb," he said. "Employees were intimidated and threatened, documents were altered to hide disallowed expenditures, taxpayer dollars paid for alcohol entertainment and door prizes at conferences."

One 2010 invoice lists a $67,000 room rental charge, but hotel mangers told investigators in an e-mail that it didn't create the bill. Edelen says Emergency Management did, to hide after-hours parties, door prizes and alcohol purchases.

"There's no such thing as accidentally altering documents," Edelen said. "No such thing as taking the headline of a business and then creating your own accountability system and then plugging it in there as if it was an official document. It was not. They are literally caught red-handed here."

And then there were...Elvis impersonators?

"The Elvis impersonators were paid for by vendors directly, but so many other things were not, and when you take private money and co-mingle it with public money, it becomes the taxpayers' property," Edelen said.

When WDRB News went to Kentucky Emergency Management Director Brigadier General John Heltzel's office in Frankfort, we were met by a spokesperson who gave no on camera comment. 

The agency falls under the state's department of Military Affairs. Kentucky Adjutant General Edward Tonini said in a statement, " The Department of Military Affairs' leadership fully supports transparency and accountability in all state agencies. As we serve our state, we are responsible and accountable to the citizens of the Commonwealth as both beneficiaries and taxpayers."  Tonini also said, " We will redouble our efforts to ensure every process meets these standards and provides the best value to the Kentucky taxpayer."

The investigation has been turned over to the U.S. Office of Homeland Security, the state Attorney General and the State Ethics Commission. "Decisions are going to need to be made about the ability of leadership to continue in this critically important capacity," Edelen said.

In the report, Emergency Management leaders disputed almost every one of the auditor's major findings calling the agency one of the finest in the nation. The Governor appointed General Heltzel in 2008. Today Beshear released a statement saying he expects prompt corrective action.

Read the full audit report here:

http://apps.auditor.ky.gov/Public/Audit_Reports/Archive/2013KYEmergencyManagementexamination.pdf

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