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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter To All Believers Like Me.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Today Is GOOD Friday, For He Paid For Our Salvation With The Destroyed Temple, But In Three Days He'll Rebuild It, As He Promised. Amen.

Joel Pett Is Still Picking On Rand Paul.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Warren County, Kentucky, Grand Jury Returns "No True" Bill In The Shooting Death Of Brandon Bradshaw By Thomas Brown. Read And Watch Videos.

No charges in fatal shooting

Grand jury: Off-duty security officer acted in self-defense after Bradshaw showed gun


Elephant Walk. Funny.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Iraq War And The GOP.

Can the Republican Party Recover From Iraq?

The war almost killed the GOP. Whether it can come back is yet to be seen.
The air has been full of 10th-anniversary Iraq war retrospectives. One that caught my eye was a smart piece by Tom Curry, national affairs writer for NBC News, who wrote of one element of the story, the war’s impact on the Republican party: “The conflict not only transformed” the GOP, “but all of American politics.”

It has, but it’s an unfinished transformation.

Did the Iraq war hurt the GOP? Yes. The war, and the crash of ’08, half killed it. It’s still digging out, and whether it can succeed is an open question.

Here, offered in a spirit of open debate, is what the war did to the GOP:
• It ruined the party’s hard-earned reputation for foreign-affairs probity. They started a war and didn’t win it. It was longer and costlier by every measure than the Bush administration said it would be. Before Iraq, the GOP’s primary calling card was that it was the party you could trust in foreign affairs. For half a century, throughout the Cold War, they were serious about the Soviet Union, its moves, feints and threats. Republicans were not ambivalent about the need for and uses of American power, as the Democrats were in the 1970s and 1980s, but neither were they wild. After Iraq it was the Republicans who seemed at best the party of historical romantics or, alternatively, the worst kind of cynic, which is an incompetent one. Iraq marked a departure in mood and tone from past conservatism.
• It muddied up the meaning of conservatism and bloodied up its reputation. No Burkean prudence or respect for reality was evident. Ronald Reagan hated the Soviet occupation of the Warsaw Pact countries—really, hated the oppression and violence. He said it, named it, and forced the Soviets to defend it. He did not, however, invade Eastern Europe to liberate it. He used military power sparingly. He didn’t think the right or lucky thing would necessarily happen. His big dream was a nuclear-free world, which he pursued daringly but peacefully.
• It ended the Republican political ascendance that had begun in 1980. This has had untold consequences, and not only in foreign affairs. And that ascendance was hard-earned. By 2006 Republicans had lost the House, by 2008 the presidency. Curry quotes National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru at a recent debate at the American Enterprise Institute: “You could make the argument that the beginning of the end of Republican dominance in Washington was the Iraq War, at least a stage of the Iraq War, 2005-06.” In 2008 a solid majority of voters said they disapproved of the war. Three-quarters of them voted for Barack Obama.
• It undermined respect for Republican economic stewardship. War is costly. No one quite knows or will probably ever know the exact financial cost of Iraq and Afghanistan, which is interesting in itself. Some estimates put it at $1 trillion, some $2 trillion. Mr. Curry cites a Congressional Budget Office report saying the Iraq operation had cost $767 billion as of January 2012. Whatever the number, it added to deficits and debt, and along with the Bush administration’s domestic spending helped erode the Republican Party’s reputation for sobriety in fiscal affairs.
• It quashed debate within the Republican Party. Political parties are political; politics is about a fight. The fight takes place at the polls and in debate. But the high stakes and high drama of the wars—and the sense within the Bush White House that it was fighting for our very life after 9/11—stoked an atmosphere in which doubters and critics were dismissed as weak, unpatriotic, disloyal. The GOP—from top, the Washington establishment, to bottom, the base—was left festering, confused and, as the years passed, lashing out. A conservative movement that had prided itself, in the 1970s and 1980s, on its intellectualism—”Of a sudden, the Republican Party is the party of ideas,” marveled New York’s Democratic senator Pat Moynihan in 1979—seemed no longer capable of an honest argument. Free of internal criticism, national candidates looked daffy and reflexively aggressive—John McCain sang “Bomb, Bomb Iran”—and left the party looking that way, too.
• It killed what remained of the Washington Republican establishment. This was not entirely a loss, to say the least. But establishments exist for a reason: They’re supposed to function as The Elders, and sometimes they’re actually wise. During Iraq they dummied up—criticizing might be bad for the lobbying firm. It removed what credibility the establishment had. And they know it.
All this of course is apart from the central tragedy, which is the human one—the lost lives, the wounded, the families that will now not be formed, or that have been left smaller, and damaged.
Iraq and Afghanistan have ended badly for the Republicans, and the party won’t really right itself until it has candidates for national office who can present a new definition of what a realistic and well-grounded Republican foreign policy is, means and seeks to do. That will take debate. The party is now stuck more or less in domestic issues. As for foreign policy, they oppose Obama. In the future more will be needed.

Many writers this week bragged about their opposition to the war, or defended their support of it. I’m not sure what good that does, but since I’m calling for debate, here we go. I had questions about an invasion until Colin Powell testified before the U.N. in February 2003. In a column soon after: “From the early days of the debate I listened to the secretary of state closely and with respect. I was glad to see a relative dove in the administration. It needed a dove. Mr. Powell’s war-hawk foes seemed to me both bullying and unrealistic. Why not go slowly to war? A great nation should show a proper respect for the opinion of mankind, it should go to the world with evidence and argument, it should attempt to win allies. A lot of people tracked Mr. Powell’s journey, and in a way took it with him. Looking back I think I did too.”

Mr. Powell told the U.N. Saddam Hussein must be stopped and asserted that Iraq had developed and was developing weapons of mass destruction. That turned out not to be true.
But I believed it, supported the war, and cheered the troops. My break came in 2005, with two columns (here and here) that questioned Mr. Bush’s thinking, his core premises and assumptions, as presented in his Second Inaugural Address. That questioning in time became sharp criticism, accompanied by a feeling of estrangement. In the future I would feel a deeper skepticism toward both parties.

So that was my Iraq, wronger than some at the start, righter than some at the end, and not shocked by the darkening picture I saw when I went there in 2011.
Henry Kissinger said recently that he had in his lifetime seen America enthusiastically enter four wars and struggle in the end to end each of them.

Maybe great nations do not learn lessons, they relearn them.

I called for a serious Republican debate on its foreign policy, but the Democrats need one too. What’s their overarching vision? Do they have a strategy, or only sentiments?
There’s a lot of Republican self-criticism and self-examination going on. What about the Democrats’?


Kentucky General Assembly Avoids Certain Annual "Special" Session, Passes Pension, Hemp, And Other Bills, Overrides Governor's Veto.

Pension, hemp bills are OK'd

Legislators came to agreements on several contentious issues Tuesday night in the final hours of the General Assembly session.
The House of Representatives and the Senate passed a compromise of two bills addressing the state’s ailing pension system, which currently has a $33 billion unfunded liability, approved legislation to set up a framework for growing industrial hemp in the state and voted to override the governor’s veto of a bill dealing with religious freedom.

Pension reform legislation would provide nearly $100 million annually to go toward the state’s actuarial required contribution to pension systems through changes to the state tax code and other sources. It also sets up a 401(k)-like retirement plan for new employees.
Dealing with the pension issue now puts the legislature “two steps ahead,” when going into the 2014 legislative session, where they will have to approve a new biennial budget, according to Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg.
The legislation will be a benefit for people within the system and have a lasting impact on state, county and municipal budgets, he said.

The pension deal was the most significant legislation passed during the session, said Givens, who added its passage caps a successful legislative session that indicates things are headed in the right direction.
“A lot of that credit goes to our new leadership and the work they’ve done on building relationships,” he said.
Republican senators were kept well informed of negotiations over funding of the actuarial required contribution to the pension systems, said Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green.
“Fully funding the ARC is the main thing to continue to move forward insustaining the current pension system,” he said.
The plan will help secure state pension plans at a time when public and private plans are struggling, said Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green.
The plan set up for new employees would guarantee 4 percent growth of money put into the system, he said.
“They’re getting a pretty good deal,” DeCesare said.

Rep. Wilson Stone, D- Scottsville, said he would have preferred a defined-benefit system like retirees have now for future employees, but that setting up the new 401(k)-like system was a compromise so all retirees know their pension plans are secure.
“That was the compromise it took to get the pension reform pieces put in place,” he said.
Stone said he learned details of plans to fund the state’s required pension contribution Monday. He would have liked to have had more time to review the more than 200-page bill laying out those details.
Still, negotiations about the pension reform plan were not any more hectic than those for many other pieces of legislation, he said

Legislators also voted Tuesday to override Gov. Steve Beshear’s veto of House Bill 279. The bill states that the government “shall not substantially burden a person’s freedom of religion.”
Beshear vetoed the bill during a break in the legislative session, stating that it could potentially threaten public safety and individual civil rights, according to a news release from the governor’s office.
The bill restores the strict scrutiny once in place in the state when government wants to restrict a religiously motivated action, Wilson said.
That kind of scrutiny was eroded in a recent case where the Supreme Court upheld a state law requiring Amish individuals to use orange triangles on their horse-drawn buggies, even though it was against their religious beliefs, he said.

The new bill states that the government needs a “compelling interest” in order to infringe such beliefs, Wilson said.
DeCesare said it was a stretch to think that the bill will threaten civil rights.
“That bill is important to many, many people,” he said.
Stone, who was a co-sponsor of the bill, said he doesn’t think it opens the door for civil rights violations.
“I think people read a lot more into this sort of legislation maybe than is actually in there,” he said.

Under the industrial hemp bill passed Tuesday, the Industrial Hemp Commission is to oversee a research program that includes licensing select growers of industrial hemp. The process would require a background check from the Kentucky State Police and consent to allow KSP to conduct two inspections per year.
While Stone supported the hemp legislation, he said it’s important for farmers not to think that the option of growing hemp will be immediately available to them because federal regulations that prevent hemp cultivation are still in place.
“This discussion is not going to result in any crop being grown any time this year or maybe next year and who knows when,” he said.
If the state is able to get a federal waiver to grow hemp, it could allow Kentucky to grow a crop that no other state in the nation is growing – one which has many uses, DeCesare said.

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Work Versus Vacations.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

U. S. Supreme Court: Police Cannot Use Drug Sniffing Dogs In A "Private Residence" And Its "Curtilage" Without A Warrant.

Divided Supreme Court Hinders Cops’ Use of Drug-Sniffing Dogs

A divided Supreme Court on Tuesday gave notice to the nation’s law enforcement officials that they generally need search warrants to employ drug-sniffing dogs outside a home to detect whether drugs are inside.
The case decided 5-4 involving a suspected Florida drug dealer limited the government’s ability to intrude into the home and was a blow to police. Law enforcement officials told the justices that the practice was “widely used,” and wanted the high court to sanction warrantless dog-sniff searches as the high court has for airport luggage or vehicles stopped during routine traffic stops.

A private residence, and the “curtilage” surrounding it, is another story and is protected by “ancient and durable roots,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority.
“But when it comes to the Fourth Amendment, the home is first among equals. At the Amendment’s ‘very core’ stands ‘the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion,’” Scalia wrote, (.pdf) quoting a 1961 high court decision. “This right would be of little practical value if the State’s agents could stand in a home’s porch or side garden and trawl for evidence with impunity; the right to retreat would be significantly diminished if the police could enter a man’s property to observe his repose from just outside the front window.”

At least 18 states warned the Supreme Court that, should it rule the way it did, the outcome would imperil “a widely used method of detecting illegal drugs.” (.pdf)
In dissent, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the majority’s decision is based on thinking “that is nowhere to be found in the annals of Anglo-American jurisprudence.”

Alito said those growing marijuana inside their homes have no reasonable expectation of privacy.
“A reasonable person understands that odors emanating from a house may be detected from locations that are open to the public, and a reasonable person will not count on the strength of those odors remaining within the range that, while detectible by a dog, cannot be smelled by a human,” he wrote.
The case concluded Tuesday stems from a Florida Supreme Court ruling in which Florida’s top court tossed evidence of 179 pot plants (.pdf) that Miami-Dade County authorities seized from the residence of Joelis Jardines in 2006. Authorities made the bust after a trained dog “alerted,” or indicated that it detected drugs, while outside the home. Police were acting on a tip, and did not have a search warrant.

Florida’s top court said the dispute, which comes as studies suggest drug-sniffing dogs reflect police bias, sets a bad precedent and “invites overbearing and harassing conduct.”
Howard Blumberg, Jardines’ attorney, agreed.
“When you’re taking about a search of a home, a search of a home is per se unreasonable unless you have warrant with probable cause,” he said in a telephone interview. “The holding is it’s a search of the home, which requires probable cause and a warrant.”

It was the biggest Fourth Amendment case to be decided following the high court’s decision last year that said affixing a GPS device to a vehicle also amounted to search.
Joining Scalia was joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan.
 Alito was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Stephen Breyer.

Among others, the case weighed a decade-old Supreme Court precedent in which the justices had ruled that thermal-imaging devices used outside a house to detect marijuana-growing operations inside amounted to a search requiring a warrant. In that case, the high court ruled in 2001 that “rapidly advancing technology” threatens the core of the Fourth Amendment “right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion.”
The dog used to nab Jardines was Franky, then an 8-year-old chocolate Labrador. Miami-Dade County officials said the K-9 has discovered more than 2.5 tons of marijuana, 80 pounds of cocaine and millions in cash during its career.

Defense attorney Blumberg said the government’s deployment of a dog was akin to the “device” used in the thermal-imaging case. (.pdf) The dog, like thermal imaging equipment, was used “to explore details of the home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion.”
Pamela Jo Bondi, Florida’s attorney general, had told the high court it must undo the Florida Supreme Court decision. (.pdf)
Law enforcement is significantly hampered if required to develop probable cause without the assistance of dogs. The Florida Supreme Court’s decision requires that the officers have probable cause before employing a dog. It is the dog’s alert, however, that often provides the probable cause to obtain the search warrant.

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Pair In Bowling Green Face Child Sex Abuse Charges.

Pair face child sex charges

Grand jury indicts man, girlfriend after juveniles claim they were raped

Francisco Perez-Yac, 31, 1588 Memphis Junction Road, Lot 22, was arrested Jan. 18 after the juveniles disclosed to a school counselor in January that Perez-Yac forced both of them to engage in sexual intercourse, court records show. He is also suspected of forcing one of the juveniles to watch pornography on his cellphone, and of forcing both juveniles to watch pornography on TV, court records show. On Wednesday, a Warren County grand jury indicted Perez-Yac on two counts of first-degree rape and four counts of first-degree sexual abuse.

The alleged sexual abuse began in 2007 when both juveniles were between the ages of 7 and 10 years old and Perez-Yac was 26 years old, according to court records. The alleged sexual abuse continued through January, when both juveniles were under the age of 16, court records show.
The juveniles disclosed that on numerous occasions between 2007 and January, Perez-Yac forced them to have sexual intercourse with him, touched them inappropriately and performed a sexual act on one of them, according to court records.

Onelia Magaly Sanchez-Valenzuela, 32, 1588 Memphis Junction Road, Lot 22, was also indicted on two counts of first-degree rape by complicity and two counts of first-degree sexual abuse by complicity. She is suspected to have known about the the sexual abuse on or about Sept. 30, 2010, and Jan. 18 and did nothing to prevent it, according to the indictment and Officer Ronnie Ward, spokesman for the Bowling Green Police Department.

Sanchez-Valenzuela was charged “with the intention of promoting or facilitating the commission of rape first degree by complicity, she solicited, commanded or engaged in a conspiracy with Francisco Perez-Yac and/or any other unnamed persons to commit the offense or she aided, counseled or attempted to aid him in planning or committing the offense,” the indictment states.
Bowling Green police are attempting to find Sanchez-Valenzuela following the Wednesday indictment but had not arrested her as of this morning, Ward said.
“We’ll do everything we can to locate her and serve the indictment,” Ward said, adding that Sanchez-Valenzuela was not at the address listed as her permanent address.
The Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office is anticipating Sanchez-Valenzuela’s arrest and will proceed with legal actions once she is in custody.
“We expect both defendants to be arraigned shortly,” said Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Cohron. “A pre-trial conference should be set 30 to 60 days from that.”

Bowling Green police obtained a search warrant granting approval to search Perez-Yac’s Samsung cellphone, which is believed to have been used by Perez-Yac to retrieve pornography and to show pornography to one of the juveniles, according to court records.
“We seized his phone, and it was processed at the (Bowling Green Police Department) computer forensics lab,” Ward said, adding that he’s unable to release information regarding the cellphone contents.

Perez-Yac is currently lodged in Warren County Jail in lieu of a $100,000 cash bond.
Sanchez-Valenzuela’s bond has been set at $50,000 cash, according to the indictment.
If convicted on the charges against them, Perez-Yac and Sanchez-Valenzuela could each face between 50 to 60 years in prison, Cohron said.


This Past Week, We Celebrated The Anniversary Of The "War Based On A Pack Of Lies". And So Did Dick Cheney And The Press!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Today, The Africa And The World Mourn The Sad Passing Of A Great Man Of Honor And Integrity, And A Literary Giant, Who Warned That In Africa "Things Fall Apart", Professor Cinua Achebe. Rest In Peace, Brother.

March Madness, Politics Style, As Seen By Joel Pett!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Kentucky Supreme Court Disbars Last Of Remaining Exceedingly Greedy And Fraudulent Fen Phen Lawyers, Stan Chelsey.

Famed lawyer Stan Chesley disbarred for fen-phen case misconduct

Famed Cincinnati plaintiffs lawyer Stan Chesley, who was dubbed the “master of disaster” for winning billions of dollars for victims of hotel fires, toxic spills, airplane crashes and defective products, has been disbarred by the Kentucky Supreme Court for misconduct in the state’s fen-phen case.

The high court’s decision Thursday could affect multiple cases in which the Cincinnati-based Chesley has a hand across the country.
By stripping his Kentucky license, the court in all liklihood ended his career.

Although Chesley, is also licensed in Ohio, it is virtually automatic he will be disbarred there as well; the Ohio Supreme Court’s disciplinary counsel has said no Ohio lawyer has ever been permanently disbarred in another state and not been disbarred in Ohio as well.
Forbes magazine once said that Chesley struck fear in the hearts of “even the biggest, most powerful corporate defendants.”

Chesley is the sixth lawyer to be disbarred for the role in the state’s diet drug settlement, in which Lexington attorneys William Gallion, Shirley Cunningham Jr. and Melbourne Mills Jr., were found to have defrauded their 440 clients by taking two-thirds of the $200 million diet-drug settlement for themselves and other lawyers and consultants.

Chesley claimed his only role was negotiating the settlement, for which he was paid paid a $20.5 million fee – and that he had no duty to the clients.
“I was not a lawyer for those people,” he proclaimed in a 2006 interview, after the first questions were raised about the deal.

But a hearing officer who recommended Chesley’s disbarment found that he was “fully aware” that most of the settlement didn’t make its way to the victims and should have known by “fifth-grade arithmetic” that he had been paid $7.6 million more than he was entitled to under his contract.
William Graham, a retired judge, said Chesley's "callous subordination" of his clients' interests to his own greed was "shocking and reprehensible” and covered up his colleagues' misdeeds and took $7.6million in excessive fees, which Graham said he should pay back to clients.

Graham found that Chesley was "fully aware" that the major part of the $200million settlement he helped negotiate for the 431 victims of the diet drug wasn't given to clients.
Graham found that Chesley lied to a judge, covered up his colleagues' misdeeds and took $7.6 million in excessive fees

The decision ends a career in which Chesley, the son of Ukrainian immigrants, amassed fabulous wealth as the lead lawyer in some of the world’s biggest class-action cases.
He and his wife, a federal judge, live in what The Cincinnati Enquirer has described as the most expensive home ever sold in greater Cincinnati, a 25-room, 27,000-square-foot French chateau that he bought in 2004 for $8 million. The sprawling slate-roof mansion on five acres is attached to an eight-car garage and a carriage house and surrounded by 300 acres of forest and fields.
Chesley's fleet of more than 20 cars have included Jaguars, Rolls- Royces, Ferraris, Aston Martins and Bentleys.

He raised millions of dollars for the Democratic Party and for former President Bill Clinton, who three times came to his home for fundraisers; Clinton appointed Chesley’s wife, Susan Dlott to the federal district bench in 1995.

Chesley has said that he worked for 17 years as an obscure products-liability lawyer until the May 28, 1977, fire at the Beverly Hills Supper Club in Southgate, Ky., which killed 165 people.
The nightclub's owner had only $1 million in insurance, but Chesley devised the novel strategy of suing the aluminum-wiring industry, whose product was determined to have caused the blaze, as well as more than a dozen other companies. He eventually won $49 million in verdicts and settlements.
The triumph helped catapult him to the leading ranks of disaster lawyers and into a prominent role in the litigation over the the 1980 MGM Grand hotel fire in Las Vegas, the 1985 Arrow Air crash that killed 248 Kentucky-based soldiers, and the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Gallion, Cunningham and Mills brought him into the fen-phen care to negotiate a deal with the manufacturer of fen-phen, a diet drug combination that was withdrawn from the market after it was shown to cause heart valve damage.

And Chesley boasted that he increased the original settlement offer from $20 million to the $200 million for which the case was finally settled in 2001.
Under their contingency-fee contracts, Mills, Cunningham and Gallion should have been paid about $60 million of the $200million settlement.
Instead, they took $94.6 million for themselves and others, including Chesley, and put $20 million into a foundation that Cunningham, Gallion and others paid themselves to manage.
Chesley should have collected about $14 million.

Angela Ford, a Lexington lawyer later hired by the clients, has said that Chesley was "up to his eyeballs" in the scheme.
Chesley's contract called for him to get 21 percent of the lawyers' gross fees, so his own take would have shown that the other lawyers took about $100 million, or half the settlement.
Gallion and Cunningham were convicted of fraud and sentenced to 25 and 20 years in prison, respectively, while Mills, who argued he was too drunk to have participated, was acquitted.
Chesley, who testified for the government against Gallion and Cunningham under a grant of immunity, was never charged. 
Ford won a $42 million judgment against Gallion, Cunningham and Mills but it was reversed last year by the Kentucky Court of Appeals, which said it should have been awarded without a trial. The case is now pending at the state Supreme Court.

Chesley joined five other lawyers who have been disbarred in the scandal. In additional to Gallion, Cunningham and Mills, they are David Helmers, who worked for Gallion, as well as former circuit judge Judge Joseph "Jay" Bamberger, who approved the settlement without reading it first, even though one of the beneficiaries was a close friend.

A hearing officer who had recommended Bamberger’s disbarment said he had sanctioned the “largest-scale fraud in the history of the Commonwealth of Kentucky” while the state Supreme Court said his conduct “shocked the conscience.”
Bamberger signed an order saying that payments to the 440 clients and their lawyers were fair and reasonable, even though he had never asked for, or been told, any of the settlement's details. He also personally benefited by accepting an appointment as a paid director of the nonprofit foundation into which the lawyers poured $20 million in leftover settlement money after telling clients the amount was minuscule.

In taking away Chesley’s licenses, the Supreme Court affirmed a decision of the Kentucky Bar Association’s board of governor’s last June to disbar him.
The bar accepted the recommendation of Graham, who found that Chesley led a “clandestine meeting" with Judge Joseph Bamberger in February 2002 to get the court's "stamp of approval upon this criminal enterprise" and his approval of fees totaling 49 percent of the settlement.
Graham said Chesley also responded with "misleading," "incomplete" and in some instances "outright falsehoods" when the bar association began investigating him.

"Clearly from the evidence, Chesley believed that he would be able to 'take his money and run' after the settlement and avoid any responsibility in the distribution of the settlement to the clients," Graham said.

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Joel Pett On Richie Farmer's Shenanigans.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Richie Farmer's Shameful Ethics Saga Shows "Why Elections Matter".

  Richie Farmer shows why elections matter

The moment he stepped up to speak to the crowd on a sweltering summer day in 2003 at Fancy Farm, the annual Kentucky political season kickoff, it was pretty clear Richie Farmer wasn’t much qualified to be Kentucky agriculture commissioner.

Mr. Farmer, a former high school Mr. Basketball, spoke mostly about his glory days as a University of Kentucky sports star and the thrill of playing basketball at Rupp Arena as reasons people should vote for him.

And the voters of Kentucky promptly elected him to not one but two terms as agriculture commissioner, largely based on his huge popularity as one of the legendary UK basketball “Unforgettables.”

Once a rising star in the state Republican Party, Mr. Farmer has achieved a new level of stardom — in eight years of office, he has managed to rack up an astonishing 42 accusations of ethics violations, the most ever returned against an official since the Executive Branch Ethics Commission was created in 1992.

Mr. Farmer’s alleged misdeeds ranged from petty — ordering his staff to drive his dog around — to breathtakingly brazen.

The ethics charges allege that as agriculture commissioner, he improperly accepted a treasure trove of gifts including hunting rifles, watches and knives; and treated staff as personal servants, ordering them to cut his grass, take him shopping and hunting and build a basketball court in his back yard.

They even had to drive his dog from the state fair to Farmer’s Frankfort home, the charges allege.

Also, according to the charges, he put his girlfriend on the payroll (for no apparent work), schemed for excessive expense payments, helped himself to state equipment including laptop computers and filing cabinets and sold, at a profit, tickets he obtained for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.

In all, it appears to have been an orgy of wretched excess where Mr. Farmer treated a state taxpayer-financed agency he was elected to run as his personal slush fund.

Voters, do you sense a message here? Elections have consequences.

Electing Mr. Farmer was no service to him or the state he was supposed to serve.

The consequences have been disastrous and embarrassing for Kentucky and Mr. Farmer, whose tenure as agriculture commissioner will be as unforgettable as his basketball career — except for all the wrong reasons.

Mr. Farmer will have a chance to contest the ethics violations. His lawyer denies any wrongdoing by Mr. Farmer and expects to provide a “vigorous defense” of his client.
But the ethics charges follow a very damaging report by state Auditor Adam Edelen last year that cited many issues found in the ethics charges.

Voters should take note and remember that at every level, elections matter.


Did I Tell You Joel Pett Doesn't Like Rand Paul, Either!?


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

More Fallout From The Richie Farmer Fiasco, As New Commissioner James Cormer Places Deputy Bruce Harper On Unpaid Administrative Leave Over Ethics Charges.

Deputy agriculture commissioner placed on unpaid leave following ethics charges

By Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT — A Kentucky Department of Agriculture employee who was charged with ethics violations Monday following an investigation of former Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer has been placed on unpaid leave.

Meanwhile, Farmer’s sister, who also was charged with ethics violations, remains on the state payroll as assistant executive director of the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.
Farmer, who was state agriculture commissioner from 2004 to 2011, was charged Monday with 42 counts of violating state ethics law, the most ever issued against an individual by the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.

The charges against Farmer, a popular University of Kentucky basketball player during the 1990s, included misuse of state employees and state resources, improper use of grants and improper use of Kentucky Proud marketing funds. Farmer’s attorney, J. Guthrie True of Frankfort, said he does not think Farmer has done anything wrong.

Also charged with ethics violations were seven other people — two of whom were on the state payroll.

Holly VonLuehrte, chief of staff for Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, said Tuesday that deputy Agriculture Commissioner Bruce D. Harper has been placed on unpaid administrative leave, pending resolution of his case. He was charged with three counts of ethics violations.
“This is a serious matter and Commissioner James Comer can’t let it distract from the actions of this office,” VonLuehrte said.

Harper, whose salary was $70,693 a year, allegedly solicited donations for a conference from businesses that the department regulates.
In 2010, Harper allegedly instructed department employees to probate a $200 fine to zero for a farmer who had violated dead-animal disposal laws. Harper allegedly did so because the farmer had contacted his state representative, who, in turn, contacted Harper to pressure the department to remove the fine.
Harper also allegedly interfered with the enforcement and penalty procedures against a grain dealer who was a political contributor.

Rhonda Monroe, Farmer’s sister, is assistant executive director of the election finance registry with an annual salary of $77,391. She was charged with three ethics violations.
Sarah M. Jackson, executive director of the registry, was asked Tuesday if any job action will be taken against Monroe.
“We do not comment on personnel matters,” Jackson said.

Monroe allegedly advised her brother and his then-wife to claim reimbursement from his campaign account for trips that he did not make and for trips that were made by his then-wife for private direct-sales business.
She also allegedly gave her brother some personal receipts that she then guided him to submit for reimbursement from his campaign account for his own financial gain and allegedly assisted him as he responded to a registry audit.

Each ethics violation carries a possible fine of up to $5,000. An officer of the commission is to hold an administrative hearing on the alleged violations and report to the commission, which will decide whether to impose any penalties.

Update 3/20: Richie Farmer's sister now joins ranks of the suspended. Read more here.

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U. S. Supreme Court Sides With Online Resellers Of Products Made Abroad Against Charges Of Copyright Infringement.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that textbooks and other goods made and sold abroad can be re-sold online and in discount stores without violating U.S. copyright law. The outcome was a huge relief to eBay, Costco and other businesses that trade in products made outside the U.S.

In a 6-3 opinion, the court threw out a copyright infringement award to publisher John Wiley & Sons against Thai graduate student Supap Kirtsaeng, who used eBay to resell copies of the publisher's copyrighted books that his relatives first bought abroad at cut-rate prices.
Justice Stephen Breyer said in his opinion for the court that once goods are sold lawfully, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere, publishers and manufacturers lose the protection of U.S. copyright law.
"We hold that the `first sale' doctrine applies to copies of a copyrighted work lawfully made abroad," Breyer said.

Had the court come out the other way, it would have crimped the sale of many goods sold online and in discount stores, and it would have complicated the tasks of museums and libraries that contain works produced outside the United States, Breyer said. Retailers told the court that more than $2.3 trillion worth of foreign goods were imported in 2011, and that many of these goods were bought after they were first sold abroad, he said.
Aaron Moss, a Los Angeles-based lawyer who is representsing Costco in a related case, said the court "correctly rejected the idea that this has anything to do with geography."

In a dissent for herself and Justices Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the court was ignoring Congress' aim of protecting "copyright owners against the unauthorized importation of low-priced, foreign-made copies of their copyrighted works."

The movie and music businesses, software makers and other manufacturers worry that the decision allows unauthorized sales to undercut their businesses.
"The ruling for Kirtsaeng will send a tremor through the publishing industries, harming both U.S. businesses and consumers around the world. Today's decision will create a strong disincentive for publishers to market different versions and sell copies at different prices in different regions. The practical result may very well be that consumers and students abroad will see dramatic price increases or entirely lose their access to valuable U.S. resources created specifically for them," said Keith Kupferschmid, general counsel for the Software & Information Industry Association.

Justice Elena Kagan, joined by Justice Samuel Alito, said in a separate opinion that Congress is free to change the law if it thinks holders of copyrights need more protection. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas also were part of the court's majority.
Kirtsaeng sold $900,000 worth of books published abroad by Wiley and others and made about $100,000 in profit. The international editions of the textbooks were essentially the same as the more costly American editions. A jury in New York awarded Wiley $600,000 after deciding Kirtsaeng sold copies of eight Wiley textbooks without permission.

The high court wrestled with what protection the holder of a copyright has after a product made outside the United States is sold for the first time. In this case, the issue was whether U.S. copyright protection applies to items that are made abroad, purchased abroad and then resold in the U.S. without the permission of the manufacturer.

The court earlier rejected copyright claims over U.S.-made items that were sold abroad and then brought back to the United States for resale.
The justices heard a similar case in 2010, but Kagan did not take part because she worked on it while serving in the Justice Department. The court divided 4-4 in that case, involving discount seller Costco and Swiss watch maker Omega.

The case decided Tuesday is Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, 11-697.

Read more.


So Sad, But True, Too!

Monday, March 18, 2013

I Would Be Remiss If I Did Not Recognize, With Profound Sorrow, The 10Th Anniversary Of The War Fought On Unimaginable Pack Of LIES: The Iraqi War.

Enough said. If you want to read more, let Google help here.

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GOP announces plan to recruit minorities


— Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, conceding his party’s “message was weak,” Monday unveiled series of steps to change how his party does business by promoting more tolerance and inclusiveness, a strategy aimed at wooing alienated minority voters.
Priebus detailed the findings from an often scathing report from his “Growth and Opportunity Project,” the result of a detailed study he initiated immediately after the November election. Republicans not only lost the presidential race—which they thought they had a good shot at winning—but seats in both houses of Congress.
“The report minces no words in telling us that we have to be more inclusive. I agree,” he said. “Our 80 percent friend is not our 20 percent enemy. We can be true to our platform without being disrespectful of those who don’t agree with it 100 percent.”
He added, “I didn’t need a report to tell me that we have to make up ground with minority groups, with women, and with young voters.”

Priebus also had harsh words for outspoken Republicans. Though he didn’t name names, he said, “I think we had a lot of biologically stupid things that were said in the last election.” Missouri Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin, for instance, spoke about “legitimate rape.”
The chairman outlined steps to recruit more minority candidates, as well as engage voters on college campuses. New staff will be hired, and the party plans to spend $10 million this year on the effort.
“The RNC cannot and will not write off any demographic, community, or region of this country,” the party chairman said.

Republicans have made similar promises for years—and Priebus’ predecessor as chairman, Michael Steele, is African-American. But Glenn McCall, a South Carolina national committeeman who helped write the study, said this time will be different. The message, rather than the party itself, will be emphasized, he said, and eventually more voters will learn to trust Republicans.
Priebus was unusually blunt in assessing what went wrong in 2012, when Mitt Romney lost the White House as President Barack Obama, thought to be in a neck and neck race, wound up winning handily.

“Our message was weak, our ground game was insufficient, we weren’t inclusive, we were behind in both data and digital, our primary and debate process needed improvement,” Priebus said.
He’s got a difficult task, because the party is split today between pragmatists such as Priebus and those who see 2012 as a small setback that can be overcome as long as the party sticks to conservative principles.

The 100-page report, written by a five-member panel, makes that clear from the start. “The GOP today is a tale of two parties,” it says. “It is time to smartly change course, modernize the party and learn once again how to appeal to more people.”
Priebus tried to assure the diehards he was not abandoning them.
“A passion for the issues drives good campaigns, and voters of all races, income levels, and backgrounds need to understand that our policies offer a chance for a brighter future,” he said.

Conservative groups, he insisted, “have a valuable role to play. The RNC will always be the leader in campaign mechanics, but as the report makes clear, friends and allies should take up capabilities that can supplement our efforts in certain areas: voter registration, research, digital training, and more.”
But there are problems, as the report describes how voters often saw the party “narrow minded,” “out of touch,” and “stuffy old men.”
And, Priebus lamented, “The perception that we’re the party of the rich continues to grow.”
Work with us, he urged. “If there’s one message I want everyone to take away from here it’s this: We know we have problems, we’ve identified them, and we’re implementing the solutions to fix them,” he said.

The party plans a series of new steps, including senior level advisory councils for Hispanics, African-Americans and Asian-Americans. Minority candidate recruitment will be beefed up. Communications staffers will be hired to promote minority leaders in the party.
Priebus also vowed to aggressively market Republicans on college campuses, and more actively recruit women candidates.

A new national grassroots program is aimed at engaging minorities. “We will take our message to civic centers and community events, where people live, work and worship,” the chairman said. “This new approach will be diverse, year-round, community-based, and dedicated to person-to-person engagement.”

Republicans will also move more quickly into the age of political technology. By May 1, it plans to overhaul its political education department, making more party resources available electronically. It will set up a field office in the San Francisco area.
“As we learned with visits to Silicon Valley and conversations with top tech firms, many of the best minds are on the other side of the country. Having an office there will make it easier for technologists to join our efforts, and it can serve as a hub for our data and digital political training “ Priebus said.

He’ll also try to streamline the presidential nominating process. Instead of the current hodgepodge system of nomination contest debates, he’ll push for fewer debates. And the party convention, which last year was held in late August, would be moved much earlier.


Hilarty Clinton Announces Run For White House ...

... well .. sort of!


BREAKING NEWS: Former Kentucky Agricultural Commissioner And Former Lieutenant Governor Candidate, Richie Farmer, Charged With 42 Counts Of Ethics Violations.

Richie Farmer charged with 42 ethics violations

Watch video below:

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Richie Farmer was charged with 42 ethics violations Monday — a record number of counts that allege he repeatedly put his personal interest above that of the public during his 2003-11 tenure as Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner.

The Executive Branch Ethics Commission returned the charges after a 10-month investigation that stemmed from a scathing report issued April 30, 2012, by State Auditor Adam Edelen on Farmer’s years as agriculture commissioner.

The popular former University of Kentucky basketball player and lieutenant governor candidate was accused in a state audit last year of using Department of Agriculture employees to take him hunting and shopping, mow his yard and chauffeur his dog.

The ethics process calls for the charges to go before a hearing officer, who will take evidence and make a recommendation back to the ethics commission, which finally decides whether a violation occurred. That process could take months.
If the commission finds Farmer guilty it can impose a fine of up to $5,000 per count.

The ethics commission was established by the General Assembly in 1992. Before Monday, the most counts the commission returned against an individual was14 against an attorney who worked in the state Labor Cabinet.
But its most high-profile case charged Gov. Paul Patton in 2003 with four counts stemming from his affair with Tina Conner.

Like many ethics cases, Patton’s was settled before it went to a hearing — admitting to two charges that he improperly intervened to help Conner’s construction business and help a friend of Conner get a state government promotion.
Patton insisted, however, he had done nothing wrong and settled the case during his last month as governor in 2003 because “I need to move on.”

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Words To Live By, Words Of Wisdom,And Words To Ponder.

"There is a rank due to the United States, among nations, which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war."

--George Washington, Fifth Annual Message, 1793

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So Sad, But True!


Friday, March 15, 2013

... And So Is This One!


Now This Here Paul Ryan's New Budget Cartoon Is Funny. Lol.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Louisville Metro Council Finds Barbara Shanklin Guilty Of Ethics Violations, Recommends Removal. I Recommend Jail!

The Louisville Metro Ethics Commission Thursday unanimously found that Metro Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin violated the city’s ethics law and recommended she be removed from office.
That recommendation now goes to Metro Council, whose leadership said after the commission released its findings that members will review the findings with lawyers “as quickly as possible”

Five members of the Louisville Metro Council would have to petition for a trial-like removal hearing. In that proceeding, to be held within 90 days, Shanklin’s fellow council members -- other than those signing the petition — will act as her jury.
Shanklin, D-2nd District, has denied any wrongdoing and her lawyer, Aubrey Williams, said she will be exonerated on the ethics claims and in a related criminal investigation. Williams planned to speak to reporters later Thursday afternoon. A woman who arrived at Shanklin’s home Thursday after the commission announced its findings said Shanklin was not there.

The commission also issued a reprimand and censure. Shanklin can appeal the findings to Jefferson Circuit Court.
“Now is the time for the council to come together and work to address these findings in a way that helps to move this community forward,” Council President Jim King said in a prepared statement along with Jerry Miller, chairman of the Council’s Government Accountability and Ethics Committee, and Madonna Flood, vice chair. “We assure you this process will move forward as quickly as possible while also protecting fairness for all those involved.”

The commission said four of the five ethics complaints were substantiated.

The complaint was filed after The Courier-Journal reported that she had appropriated $175,000 in discretionary grants to the Petersburg/Newburg Improvement Association over the past seven years, then signed 80 percent of the organization's checks over that time. More than $14,000 in grant funds went to her family members, who performed services for the nonprofit group.

The Courier-Journal stories also showed that Shanklin and her family members were the main participants in an upholstery training program that cost taxpayers $30,000 and was intended for ex-offenders — before it was canceled by the Fischer administration. The newspaper found no evidence that any ex-offenders ever participated in the program.

The complaint against her was filed last July by Richard Beliles, chairman for Common Cause of Kentucky, a nonpartisan government watchdog organization.
Shanklin would be the second Metro Council member to face removal in three years.

Metro Council in September 2011 voted to expel former Councilwoman Judy Green last year after finding she had committed multiple violations of the city's ethics law by mishandling a grant and managing a summer jobs program for youth that employed several of her relatives. Green died Jan 15 after suffering a heart attack.

The Louisville Metro Police Department's Public Integrity Unit conducted a criminal investigation of Shanklin's financial management of her office.
That investigation was recently turned over to a special prosecutor, Robert Schaefer, the first assistant commonwealth's attorney for Meade, Breckinridge and Grayson counties.

Editor's note:you can read the ethics report here.





Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Belated Congratulations To Louisville Cardinal Basketball For Winning A Share Of The Big East Title. Now On To The NCAA Championship Game In Atlanta. Watch.

watch others:


Mitch McConnell Releases First Campaign Ad Featuring Wife, Elaine Chao. Watch.

Glass Ceiling Or Glass Floor?


Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Kentucky State Official: Child Abuse Death Resulted In "Major Policy Failure". And I Say: What Was GESTAPO'S Policy Again?!

Kentucky child abuse death resulted in 'major policy failure,' state official says

Cases reviewed Monday
• Peyton Green, 18-months, died July 2, 2011 of blunt force injuries to the head, Allen County.
• Carson Lankford, 9-months, died Aug. 23, 2011 after taking medication left out on table, Harlan County.
• Ryder Garris, 2, died July 5, 2011 after drowning in grandfather’s pond, Elliott County.
• Alayna Adair, 3, died July 3, 2011 of head injury, Christian County.

Kentucky child abuse workers committed a “major policy failure” when they failed to remove a 3-year-old girl with a broken arm from her father’s custody — only to have her die just two weeks later of a head injury, a top state official acknowledged Monday.
Commissioner Teresa James of the Department of Community Based Services said the state’s failure to act in time to save 3-year-old Alayna Adair contributed to her death in July 2011.
Though the state opened a child-abuse investigation after Alayna suffered a broken arm, she wasn’t put in protective custody. Now he faces a murder charge in her death, and several state workers have been disciplined for their handling of the Christian County case.
“This is probably one of the most egregious cases we’ve found,” James told a meeting of the Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Panel in Frankfort.

The meeting Monday was the third held by the panel, which was convened by an executive order of Gov. Steve Beshear last year, but the first to consider actual child-abuse cases. The group, comprised of experts in child welfare, medicine, law enforcement and social work, is charged with reviewing cases where children die or nearly die from abuse or neglect.
The panel had barely begun to raise concerns Monday about Alayna’s death before James acknowledged that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services had found problems with how employees responded, including failing to act in a timely way and violating policies that require multiple people, including social workers and supervisors, to look at a case within 72 hours.

“We so blatantly disregarded policy, and we failed this girl and her family,” James told the panel. “I have agonized over the failure. We had multiple opportunities to prevent this death.”
James insisted the cabinet acted quickly to discipline employees who acted improperly once the problems were discovered, but she wouldn’t provide specifics — including what action was taken or when. She also said other cabinet policies had been violated but did not elaborate on what those were.

Alayna’s father, Charles Morris, is scheduled to be tried Sept. 9 on a murder charge in his daughter’s death.
Alayna’s death was one of four the panel looked at Monday, the first of the 48 cases it has been given to review.
The goal for each meeting will be to look for trends and ways to improve the system to better protect children — eventually becoming part of a report with findings and recommendations.

The cabinet had been involved before 2-year-old Ryder Garris drowned in July 2011 in a pond at his grandfather’s home, another case the panel reviewed Monday.
The state put a protection plan in place for Ryder that provided that he stay with his father and not be left alone with his mother. But when his father, Tommy Garris, was arrested, Ryder was left in the care of his mother, Sophia Isch.
Isch took the boy to the home of Garris’ father, and Ryder was later later found dead in a pond.
Panel member Detective Kevin Calhoon of the Kentucky State Police said it would have been helpful if there was a way to get protection plan restrictions entered into the state’s system that provides information on misdemeanor and other court actions against people.
He said if that had happened police arriving at the scene to arrest Garris might have been alerted that the boy should not be left alone with his mother.

The cabinet had not been previously involved with the families in the two other deaths reviewed by the panel.
In one, 8-month-old Carson Lankford of Harlan County died after taking medication left out on a table. In the other, 18-month-old Peyton Green in Allen County died of blunt-force injuries to the head.
In those cases, panel members praised the thorough investigations by child-protective services after each death, and agreed there were few opportunities to improve the response by other professionals who had come in contact with the children.
In Peyton’s case, panel members were dismayed by his mother’s unwillingness to accept outside help before the boy’s death.

The mother, Julie Green, now faces a charge of second-degree criminal abuse in his death, while her boyfriend, Timothy Steen, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. Both are scheduled for pre-trial conference hearings Tuesday.
Steen had previously been convicted of child abuse in another county. Green, meanwhile, had received help from the Health Access Nurturing Development Services program, known as HANDS, which helps new parents with services such as counseling.
Based on her review of the state’s report on the case, Dr. Melissa Currie, a forensic pediatrician at Kosair Children’s Hospital, said she couldn’t find any professional who acted inappropriately.
“I don’t think this was a case that any of us could have predicted,” Currie said. “There are certainly risk factors … but what could we have done to empower this mother to better protect her son?”
Little was said Monday about Carson’s case.

Panel members will reconvene May 13 to review more cases.

In the meantime, the legislature is considering a bill, House Bill 290, that would make the panel permanent and set further rules for how it would operate. The bill would give the panel access to unredacted case files and the ability to request information from other agencies that might have been involved with the children, powers it doesn’t have now.
The bill would also allow the panel to go into closed session to discuss cases, although once that was done the panel would immediately have to come out of closed session to give a summary of what was discussed.
The panel is required to produce an annual report, and it would still have to do so under the proposed bill. But the bill, would also require the panel to report regularly to the legislature’s health and welfare and program review committees so it could provide oversight.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Jefferson County Joins list Of Growing Kentucky Counties Opting For Their Own Alternative Traffic Driving Schools.

Jefferson County Attorney's Office profiting from alternative traffic school course

Officer Michelle Brown speaks with a motorist at a checkpoint on Taylor Boulevard in Louisville.
Officer Michelle Brown speaks with a motorist at a 
checkpoint on Taylor Boulevard in Louisville.

Traffic school vs. traffic school

Kentucky traffic school vs. Jefferson County attorney’s Drive Safe Louisville.

State classCounty attorney class
Hours to complete42
Cost$181.50, online; $149, in person*$150
Points assessed against licenseNoNo
Final examMust get 80 to pass, can take 3 timesNo final exam or minimum score
Courthouse trip required?Yes. Must apply in court or with clerkNo. Invited by letter from county attorney
Penalty for failing to completeLicense suspensionReinstatement of citation in court
FrequencyCan take once every yearCan take once every 2 years
Eligible offensesMoving violations, up to 25 mph overMoving violations, speeding up to 25 mph over
Ineligible: DUI, driving without insurance DUI, driving without insurance
*Includes $134 court costs.
Source: Jefferson County attorney’s office; PSI of Kentucky; Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

The next speeding ticket you pay may help cover the salaries of prosecutors in Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell’s office.
Desperate for revenue because of state budget cuts, O’Connell has joined about 50 county attorneys statewide in offering his own traffic school, which the legislature authorized last year.
If you’re cited in Jefferson County for any of 17 traffic violations — including speeding up to 25 mph over the speed limit, or running a red light — you can pay $150 to take a two-hour online class and never have to go to court. Complete the course and your citation is dismissed — it won’t appear on your driving record and no points will be assessed against your license.

A vendor that O’Connell hired to run the “Drive Safe Louisville” course, which was launched two weeks ago, calls it a “convenient, interactive way” to satisfy violations “in the comfort of home.”

But some lawyers and judges, including Kentucky Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr., say they have concerns.
“I don’t see what the point of the law is other than to put money into the county attorney’s hands,” criminal defense lawyer Skip Daleure said.
Minton said he is bothered by “any type of system that raises money based on fees.” The program is a throwback to the days before court reform in Kentucky when the courts were funded by fines.
Defense lawyer Paul Gold, who practices in district court, sees both good and bad.
He says it is a “fantastic program for the accused” because it is cheaper than state traffic school online that costs $181. But he said he’s worried it will eliminate review by judges of alleged dangerous driving and that it creates a “pay-to-get-out-of-it situation.”

Another defense attorney, Benham Sims, said he finds it “offensive” that O’Connell maintains a policy of opposing expungement of prior criminal offenses for offenders who have so much as a traffic ticket since their conviction, “but now, if you pay him $150, he will make the charge go away.”
O’Connell, however, noted that the General Assembly last year enacted legislation specifically authorizing county attorneys to run their own traffic programs — and to collect a reasonable fee — although some had been doing so for years.

Drivers will be accepted into his office’s program on a case-by-case basis, he said, based on the offense charged, the driver’s history and other “relevant information,” O’Connell said.
He said there there is a “real education component” to the program, though he and other prosecutors concede the intent is to raise cash.

A search for funding

County attorneys have endured cuts in state funding as well as a dramatic decline in the fees they once reaped from collecting on bad checks — an amount that has dropped with the decline in the number of checks written, said Robert Neace, president of the Kentucky County Attorneys Association.

Although no statewide figures are available, Neace said check-collection fees have dropped 60 percent to 70 percent in Boone County since 2007.
“Times are tough,” said Neace, the Boone county attorney.
House Bill 480 doesn’t spell out the curriculum for county attorney traffic schools, meaning every county attorney can set his own requirements.

In Christian County, for example, drivers must write a term paper on safe driving, while in Henderson County they must complete two hours of community service. In Fayette, they must attend an hourlong class taught personally by County Attorney Larry Roberts.
The Jefferson County class is two hours and offered online only. It features a traffic safety quiz, slides and videos.

The $150 fee is divided three ways: O’Connell’s office gets $76, while $49 goes to the vendor, Lexington-based PSI of Kentucky, and $25 to the Administrative Office of the Courts, where it is put into a fund to hire more deputy clerks and enhance their pay.
O’Connell said he doesn’t know how much the program will generate because it is impossible to predict how many drivers will be eligible. Drivers can take the class only once every two years in O’Connell’s program.

But with 21,439 pre-payable citations issued in Jefferson County in 2011 for moving violations, according to the Jefferson circuit clerk’s office, there is a potential for O’Connell’s office and PSI to generate big bucks.

If the class were taken for every citation in 2011, it would have raised about $1.6 million for the county attorney’s office and about $1 million for the vendor.
Chief District Judge Ann Bailey Smith said that judges have not been briefed on the program and that she could not predict what the impact will be on the court’s docket. She said judges will have to approve the dismissal of charges.
Minton said it is impossible to predict the financial impact, although it may produce more money for the courts.

Participating drivers won’t pay court costs — $134 in Jefferson County. But the largest portion of that goes to the general fund, and only about $6 goes directly to the courts, compared with $25 of the county attorney traffic school fee.
Circuit clerks supported the traffic school law because of that, said Hardin Circuit Clerk Loretta Crady, the president of the state circuit clerks’ association.

Jefferson Circuit Clerk David Nicholson also said he supports O’Connell’s traffic program, as did Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad, who has ordered officers to set court dates six weeks from when they cite drivers to give them time to complete the program.
“If there is a program that will help our citizens and make our roads safe, I am supportive of that, regardless of who offers that program,” Nicholson said.

Choice of programs

O’Connell gave the no-bid contract to PSI, a fledgling company formed last year that operates programs for six county attorneys, over the more experienced, which operates online traffic schools for 40 counties and provides an array of other services, such as processing the collection of delinquent taxes.
O’Connell said he liked PSI’s “product” better and the fact that it is offering daylong programs in schools on the dangers of distracted driving.

Although PSI is a for-profit company, its “Drive Safe Kentucky” website has the look of an official government site.
It bears the seal of the state of Kentucky and is labeled “Kentucky Prosecutor’s (sic) Traffic Safety.”
Fayette County Attorney Larry Roberts, who runs his own traffic diversion program without a vendor, says that is misleading because there is no statewide county attorney traffic program.
Attorney General Jack Conway’s office declined to comment specifically on the site, but spokeswoman Shelley Johnson said using a seal in a solicitation or advertisement that suggests it is endorsed by the commonwealth could violate the state Consumer Protection Act.
PSI chief executive Guy Huguelet said county attorneys are all “employees of the commonwealth. That is why the seal is there.”
However, he added: “If it is not appropriate, we will take it down. We sure wouldn’t want to do anything that is wrong.”

PSI was founded by Jake Patrick, 26, the son of Bill Patrick, who is executive director of the county attorneys’ association and a former chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party.
O’Connell said the elder Patrick never lobbied for his son’s company, and other county attorneys also said he has stayed out of the business.
“To his credit, I never had one single conversation with Bill,” O’Connell said.
Josh Hartlage, president of, which is based in Elizabethtown and provides technology services to 200 counties in the Midwest and southeastern United States, declined to comment on losing the contract to PSI.
“We wish Jefferson County the best of luck,” he said.