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House panel passes bill to empower ethics committees in Lexington and Louisville

By Beth Musgrave
bmusgrave@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — A bill that would give subpoena powers to committees in Lexington and Louisville that investigate alleged ethics violations within local government is heading to the full House.

The House Local Government Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 117 Monday. The Senate approved the bill 35-1 last month. The bill only applies to urban county governments.

Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, said the bill was in response to alleged ethics violations of council members in Louisville.

SB 117 would give ethics committees administrative subpoena power to gather documents and compel witnesses to testify.

2012 Voters’ Guide: Find out where the candidates stand

Election Day is almost here, but there’s still time to find out where the candidates stand on the issues most important to you. Click the links below to see our Voters’ Guide for each race (all links are PDF’s).

President of the United States

U.S. House, Sixth District

• State House Districts in Fayette County Part 1 and Part 2 (Contested races only)

State Senate District in Fayette County (Contested races only)

• Urban County Council Districts 1-8 (Contested races only)

• Urban County Council Districts 9-12 (Contested races only)

Also, view a list of candidates in Kentucky’s contested state and federal races, along with candidates in contested local races in Fayette, Bourbon, Clark, Franklin, Jessamine, Madison, Scott and Woodford counties.

Key Voter Info:

• Polls are open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time. Anyone in line by 6 p.m. may vote.

• To find out whether you are registered to vote, where you vote and which races you may vote in, go to the Voter Information Center at the State Board of Elections Web site, Elect.ky.gov .

• Voters must produce identification or be known by a precinct officer before voting.

• If you see problems, call Attorney General Jack Conway’s election-fraud hotline, 1-800-328-8683 (press release).

• It is illegal for retailers to sell malt beverages, distilled spirits and wine during polling hours.

Lexington councilwoman K.C. Crosbie to run for state Treasurer

By Linda B. Blackford – lblackford@herald-leader.com

Urban County Council member K.C. Crosbie will file to run for state Treasurer next week, she confirmed on Thursday.

Crosbie, a registered Republican, would likely take on incumbent Todd Hollenbeck next fall if she wins the GOP nomination. Crosbie was re-elected to the LFUCG council in November.

If she won the treasurer’s race, Mayor Jim Gray would appoint someone to finish out her term.

Crosbie, 42, said she decided Wednesday to take the plunge after getting approval from her husband and three children.

“Part of what excited me about the position is what (former treasurer and current Finance and Administration Secretary) Jonathan Miller did to elevate the office,” Crosbie said. “I’m not sure we’ve seen that same type of standard over the past four years.”

She said she would not use the office as a stepping stone to other statewide office.

Voters’ Guide: Where candidates stand on the issues

Election Day is Tuesday. It’s time to pay attention and pick a candidate.

To help, we’ve quizzed the candidates on the most important issues of the day. You’ll find their answers of 45 words or less by clicking on the links below.

U.S. Senate (PDF)

6th District U.S. House (PDF)

Lexington mayor (PDF)

State Senate (PDF)

State House (PDF)

Urban County Council (PDF)

Urban Council Districts (PDF)

On Tuesday, polls are open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time. Anyone in line by 6 p.m. may vote.

To find out whether you are registered to vote, where you vote and which races you may vote in, visit the Voter Information Center at the State Board of Elections’ Web site, Elect.ky.gov.

The link below also contains a listing of candidates for every state office on the ballot in Kentucky. And if you live in Fayette, Bourbon, Clark, Madison, Jessamine, Woodford, Scott or Franklin County, you’ll find a complete listing of candidates seeking local offices.

On the ballot: a listing of candidates in state, federal and local races

Campaign Watchdog: Jim Newberry’s claim about council member ‘false’

MORE: Read previous Campaign Watchdog stories

By Andy Mead – amead@herald-leader.com

The statement: “Last week (Jim) Gray’s former campaign manager and close friend Diane Lawless admitted to withholding documents from the fraud investigation in an attempt to embarrass Mayor Newberry and his administration.”

— Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry in a Tuesday e-mail to supporters.

The ruling: False

The facts: A six-month controversy sparked by allegations of fraud made by a city employee has taken many twists and turns, including the revelation by State Auditor Crit Luallen last week that an unnamed member of the Urban County Council had copies of the fraud allegations well before an investigative committee of the council spent considerable time and effort trying to acquire them.

Luallen’s report found that no fraud had occurred, but it sparked a pointed discussion at last week’s council work session in which Lawless admitted she was the council member who had copies of the fraud allegations. Lawless, however, did not admit to knowingly withholding the documents from the council committee and said nothing about a plot to embarrass Newberry.

Instead, Lawless said she did not realize she had copies of the documents and did not know they were among the documents she showed to Luallen.

Lawless did manage Vice Mayor Jim Gray’s 2006 campaign and supports his bid to unseat Newberry in November.

Ironically, the false statement in the Newberry e-mail is followed by a sentence touting a Herald-Leader Campaign Watchdog article that pointed out a false statement in a television ad by Gray.

Opponent calls on cursing councilman to apologize

By Linda B. Blackford – lblackford@herald-leader.com

Kevin Williams, a candidate for the Urban County Council’s 10th District seat, called on his opponent, incumbent Doug Martin, to apologize on Wednesday for cursing at a local blogger in city hall.

On July 1, Martin directed a string of obscenities at Joe Sonka, author of the Barefoot and Progressive blog, in a fifth-floor conference room where a council committee had just met.

“I have waited ten days in an attempt to give Mr. Martin the time to account for his actions himself, but further reports indicate that he continues to refuse to own up to his actions on July 1st,” Williams said in a press release. “I call on Council Member Martin to apologize immediately to the citizens of Lexington.”

Martin, an attorney, was appointed to the council by Mayor Jim Newberry in January 2009 after Don Blevins Jr. resigned to become Fayette County clerk.

Lexington council candidate posts pictures of opponent at bachelor party

By John Cheves – jcheves@herald-leader.com

A candidate for Urban County Council who has alleged massive corruption in Lexington government is now making waves by posting on the Web photos of an opponent watching naked women perform during a 1990s bachelor party.

Christopher Alan Hignite, one of nine candidates for an at-large seat on the council, took the pictures, which show Urban County Councilman Chuck Ellinger II at the party. Ellinger, who is fully clothed in the pictures, and other men watch as several young women put oil on one another and dance.

On Saturday, Hignite uploaded the photos to a Web address connected to his campaign site. Then he sent e-mails around Lexington announcing them and posted the Web address on at least one local political blog. Hignite employed the strippers seen in the photos.

On Monday, Ellinger said he was unaware of the photos’ existence until the Herald-Leader asked about them. He said he might sue Hignite if he concludes that his opponent defamed him with malice intended.

“It was a friend’s bachelor’s party that happened … before I was on the Urban County Council,” said Ellinger, who has never been married. “I think it’s important that we stay focused on the issues that are important to this community.”

Lexington Vice Mayor Jim Gray running for mayor

Lexington Vice Mayor Jim Gray

By Andy Mead – amead@herald-leader.com

Lexington Vice Mayor Jim Gray, who has clashed with Mayor Jim Newberry on several key issues, will run for the top spot himself next year, he told the Herald-Leader on Tuesday.

“My decision has a lot to do with this city’s current condition and its potential,” Gray said.

His entry into the race sets up a contest against Newberry, who is seeking a second term, and former Mayor Teresa Isaac, whom Newberry beat three years ago. Political newcomer Eric Patrick Marr also is in the race.

Among his reasons for getting into the race, Gray cited Newberry’s support of the now-stalled CentrePointe development in downtown Lexington and the mayor’s reluctance to move quickly on an investigation of a spending scandal at Blue Grass Airport.

“I’m not running because Jim Newberry is a bad person at all,” Gray said. “I’m running because Jim has made some bad decisions.”

In a statement Tuesday night, Newberry said he welcomed Gray’s entry into the race. Then he hit back.

“I look forward to discussing the vice mayor’s record while he has served on the council over the past three years … .” Newberry said. “While the vice mayor has chosen the role of Monday morning quarterbacking, this campaign will be about Lexington’s future.”

Lexington to develop an oath for board and commission members

Urban County Council members are interested in creating an oath that city board and commission members must sign when they agree to serve.

The purpose of the oath would be to remind the board and commission members of their responsibilities and duties, said Councilman Julian Beard, who suggested the idea in response to the expense scandal at Blue Grass Airport. “It’s not a magic bullet by any means. It’s a step. It sensitizes the various and sundry directors to their responsibilities and duties. I can’t see how that can harm anything at all.”

A lack of adequate controls and lax monitoring of expenses by airport board members created an environment in which there was “little risk of detection” for improper spending of more than $500,000 in three years, state auditor Crit Luallen said in an audit released two weeks ago.

Lexington to study golf carts on city streets

Lexington will study whether golf carts should be allowed on city streets.

The Urban County Council unanimously referred the issue to the council’s services committee on Tuesday.

“There are people in Lexington who are interested in pursuing the issue,” said Councilman Kevin Stinnett, who referred the item to committee.

The committee will study whether the city should allow golf carts on city roads, and if so, what restrictions should be placed on them.