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The Kentucky League of Cities and the Kentucky Association of Counties, among other organizations, have been in the media quite a bit lately because of perks paid to their leaders, lax oversight by their board members, and an otherwise insensitive attitude toward the taxpayers who pay for it all.
That’s the bad news, and it’s been inescapable. There is a kernel of good news to go with it, though. In the weeks since these patterns came to light, many of those responsible have stepped down and those organizations have instituted changes that will help ensure the rules are not abused in the future. City and county officials who pay their dues and buy their insurance from KLC and KACo have taken a closer look at what they’re getting for your tax dollars, and how that money can be more wisely spent.
Leaders of both groups spoke before me and my colleagues on the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government in August. They understood the gravity of the situation, and we made sure they comprehended the need for even more action. I’m pleased that they’ve made progress since our meeting, and I look forward to working with them to ensure even more steps toward honesty and transparency down the road.
Their efforts are important for two reasons. The most obvious is that your tax dollars should be carefully guarded and used to their greatest potential. More broadly, though, they’re acting to restore confidence in their associations and the services they provide.
On the other hand, few people have faith that these changes would have been implemented without a light being shined on the abuses in the first place. Who knows what other organizations are wasting your money because their neglect hasn’t been revealed in the newspaper? Supreme Court Justice and Kentucky native Louis Brandeis famously noted that “sunshine is the best disinfectant,” and it’s as true now as it was 100 years ago.
Along with Rep. Jim DeCesare(R- Bowling Green), I’m drafting legislation that would require all state government spending to be placed in an online database that anyone could search. Part of the problem with KLC and KACo is that few people knew where the money was going, so there was little incentive to stay accountable. With any Kentuckian able to track how tax dollars are being spent, public officials will recognize the need to make every penny count. They’ll know that if they waste money on some unnecessary project, the people will find out and demand answers.
In that way, government and public organizations are like children: if they know they’re being watched, they’re more likely to behave. And making them behave in the first place is much more effective than punishing them when they misbehave.
(Senator Thayer represents the 17th Senate District, which includes Grant, Owen, and Scott Counties and part of Kenton County. He welcomes your concerns or comments toll-free at 800-372-7181 or email at email@example.com.)