Tuesday, March 08, 2011
EKB Capsule News...Kentucky...3-9-'11
- Willow Place Trailer Park in Zebulon which was, before July flooding, a well kept place to live, is now declared a health and safety hazard by the Pike County Health Department. Last year, flood waters destroyed 38 trailers, forcing them to be left abandoned. Thieves ravaged what was left. Pike County Judge Executive Wayne T. Rutherford says it looks like a tornado hit the park. County officials say the property owner in Florida did not receive FEMA assistance, and this week gave the county permission to clean it up and has agreed to pay back the county. Officials say clean-up will cost $15,000.
- Gregory Blackburn of Pikeville has filed a federal lawsuit against officials at the Pike County Detention Center. Blackburn alleges that, while being held at the facility for non-payment of fines, officials ignored his requests to change cells. According to the lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Lexington, Blackburn was found beaten in his cell on March 28, 2010. Blackburn's attorney, Gregory Belzley of Prospect, said Tuesday Blackburn simply felt he was at risk in that particular cell for whatever reason and tried to communicate that to an officer. Blackburn claims he was not taken to a hospital until a police officer who was visiting the jail volunteered to do so. The lawsuit says Blackburn suffered numerous fractures, cuts and contusions to his face and other parts of his body as a consequence of his beating, and is still undergoing treatment and reconstructive surgery. Blackburn is seeking actual and punitive damages.
- Two former Clay County officials convicted of conspiring with a former judge, school superintendent and others in a vote buying scheme have been sentenced to prison. Tuesday morning, U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves in Frankfort handed down a sentence of 20 years and four months to 58 year old William Stivers, a one-time election officer in Clay County. Later in the day, Reeves handed down a 20 year sentence to 71 year old Charles Wayne Jones, a former elections commissioner. Both were sentenced for their roles in conspiracies that involved racketeering, money laundering and voter fraud in charges stemming from the 2002, 2004 and 2006 elections. Six other defendants, including former Judge R. Cletus Maricle, are scheduled to be sentenced this week.
- U.S. Representative Hal Rogers of Kentucky and U.S. Representative Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia have filed legislation aimed at easing federal restrictions on coal mining. Rogers and Capito say the legislation is aimed at protecting Appalachian coal miners from "strangulation by regulation" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The House bill, similar to one filed in the Senate, would give the EPA up to 60 days to accept or reject permit applications so that mining companies aren't left waiting indefinitely to learn whether they'll be allowed to open new operations or expand existing ones. That waiting period is one of the top complaints of the coal industry. Coal state lawmakers have complained that the EPA has used the process against the mining industry.
- Police are re-interviewing witnesses who were with Richard Strong, a Knott County man, the night he was last seen more than 2 weeks. Police say he was at a party on a strip mine the night he disappeared. His truck was found just up a hill from the site of the party. Strong’s family is offering a $5,000 reward for information that will help police. If you have any information on his whereabouts, please contact State Police at 606-435-6069.
- Karen Cunagin Sypher's lawyer filed a motion last month seeking a new trial, alleging Sypher did not sign several forms for the FBI or didn't sign them on the day noted. Federal prosecutors in Louisville have filed documents saying she has shown no reason why she should be given a new trial in the case. The response filed Monday by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Kuhn Jr. and Marisa Ford read, “Sypher and her ‘Defense team' will go to any length, will create any fabrication, will hurl any baseless accusation, to avoid justice in this case.” The U.S. attorney's office, which reviewed the dates the documents were filed and testimony from people who witnessed her signing, says Sypher's claims about the dates and signatures are inaccurate and do not justify a new trial. Sypher was convicted in August of extortion, lying to the FBI and retaliation against a witness. She was sentenced to more than seven years in prison after being convicted of trying to extort Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino.
- Whitley County Sheriff's deputies have arrested 23 year old Shonda Peace and 49 year old Vonda McGee after they allegedly posed as police officers and scammed Tommy Hamlin, an elderly disabled veteran, out of more than $1,000. The Whitley County residents were arrested Monday following an undercover sting investigation after sheriff Colan Harrell received a complaint over the weekend that someone was impersonating a peace officer, claiming to be with the Whitely County Sheriff’s Department. The women told the victim that if he did not pay he would be arrested and taken to jail. Peace and McGee were charged with extortion. Peace was also charged with impersonating a peace officer.
- Talks on proposals to balance Kentucky's Medicaid budget broke down among House and Senate negotiators Tuesday evening, and no additional talks were scheduled, leaving Governor Steve Beshear to face the possibility of cutting reimbursements to medical providers by some 30 percent. Republican Senate President David Williams proposed adjourning the legislative session and returning in a special session in August to deal with the state's Medicaid budget deficit. House and Senate lawmakers have been meeting since Monday to try to reach an agreement on two competing proposals for shoring up finances in a $166.5 million budget gap in the Medicaid program that provides health services to more than 800,000 needy Kentuckians. The House proposal calls for shifting the money from next year's appropriations to be used now. The Senate wants to make cuts to all government programs to erase the Medicaid deficit.
- Governor Steve Beshear has appointed Frankfort contractor Jerry T. Lunsford, a business partner of Lt. Governor Dan Mongiardo to a $90,000-a-year job in state government. Beshear signed an executive order last week appointing Lunsford as commissioner of the Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction in the Public Protection Cabinet. The department oversees construction and safety building standards. Beshear spokeswoman Kerri Richardson says Lunsford got the appointment because "the governor appoints those with the best experience and qualifications for the job." Richardson says the governor did not make the appointment as a favor to Mongiardo. On a disclosure form with the state last year, Mongiardo reported he is a partner with 21st Century Development Co. in Frankfort, which is registered with the state by Lunsford.
- Chuck Geveden Jr., the former executive director of the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety, has agreed to pay a $4,000 fine to settle an ethics complaint over pit and parking passes for three NASCAR races with the trip paid for by the state. Geveden also agreed on Tuesday to a reprimand from the Executive Branch Ethics Commission to settle the complaint. The commission said Geveden used his job to obtain pit passes and parking passes for himself and others to a trio of races in March 2010 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee. The commission said Geveden made overnight reservations for a cabin but had no official business there and did not report any work time for the weekend in question.
- Tuesday, Kentucky's two U.S. Attorneys, Kerry B. Harvey, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky and David J. Hale, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, asked for help from other officials in prosecuting nursing homes that provide substandard or life-threatening care to residents. Harvey and Hale say, while many long-term care providers render high quality services, it's important we ensure nursing home residents receive the proper care they deserve. They say, in addition to pursuing criminal charges, federal prosecutors in other parts of the country are increasingly filing civil lawsuits called "failure to care" cases against nursing homes and are seeking financial penalties, and, although they do not know of any such lawsuits haven been filed in Kentucky yet, their preference would be that there would never be a necessity to bring a claim like this.
- State Senator Julie Denton, R-Louisville, is set to appear before the Legislative Ethics Commission in April to explain why she has failed to attend the January mandatory ethics training sessions for four of the last six years after being warned about her attendance. Denton says obligations at her private sector job prevented her from attending the sessions, but she will attend future sessions if told to do so. Lawmakers are legally required to spend three hours every January in ethics training as part of an ethics law passed after a 1992 investigation exposed 15 current or former legislators who swapped votes for gifts and favors.
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