Friday, May 10, 2002

Report details transit charges

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Recent high-profile problems within the Transportation Cabinet were prompted by failure to follow proper procedures and a lack of oversight in an “unwieldy organization,” according to an internal report released Thursday.

        The report also seems to imply that a significant part of the cabinet's problem was that the incidents were reported publicly by the news media. The first sentence of the executive summary of the report states, “The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has been the subject of several news stories concerning alleged wrongdoing by employees.”

        The cabinet's Program Review and Reform Committee was created after a string of allegations:

        • The cabinet fired a Minnesota company hired to paint the John F. Kennedy Interstate 65 bridge in Louisville after it failed to do the work. A state inspector has since pleaded guilty to soliciting bribes from the contractor. Much of the work already completed will have to be redone.

        • The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program, mandated by the federal government to lend assistance to minority- and female-run contractors, was in disarray and contracts were often awarded to companies not eligible. Federal and state law enforcement authorities are still investigating the problem.

        • The Division of Driver Licensing was investigated for allegedly selling cleaned up driving records. While those allegations have not been proven, the report divulged that state computers had been used for the “transmittal of and the exchange of prescription drugs.” Pornography was also discovered on numerous computers in the division.

        “While each of these situations was unique (the committee) has found that a common thread runs through them — the cabinet is an unwieldy organization,” the report said.

        The report was begun after Gov. Paul Patton appointed former federal prosecutor Joseph Famularo as a deputy secretary of the cabinet. Mr. Famularo was chairman of the review committee.

        The report said several initiatives have already been taken, including replacing the senior management in the sections that oversaw driver licensing and minority affairs.

        The primary recommendation of the report is creation of an Office of Inspector General within the cabinet. The report estimated an initial budget for 16 people in a new office would be at least $835,000.

        “It is essential that it be staffed with competent, trained, professional personnel with unimpeachable integrity,” the report said. It also recommended that at least some of the personnel would be sworn law enforcement officers, authorized to carry weapons and with arrest authority.

        A recurring theme in the report, though, is the problems cited of the disclosure of the incidents rather than the incidents themselves.

        “In addition to the media coverage of mismanagement, each of these matters drew the attention of state and federal law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the office of attorney general of Kentucky,” the report said.


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