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The Bottom Line: Chamber advocates increased transparency for Area Development Districts

By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line

Kentucky Chamber Vice President of Public Affairs Ashli Watts testified today before the Interim Joint Committee on State Government on the need for increased transparency for the state’s area development districts (ADDs).

Joining newly appointed Deputy Secretary for Education and Workforce, and former legislator Brad Montell, Watts testified that the number one concern for businesses in Kentucky is workforce. Hundreds of millions of dollars are flowing into the state from the federal government for workforce programs but little oversight for this money is in place.

Watts testified, “It is imperative that the public have complete confidence in the way the money is being spent and in the returns they are getting for the investment of their tax dollars.”

“Without question, many ADDs do an excellent job handling public funds to provide important services to their communities. But legislation to ensure transparency and accountability is needed to strengthen the performance of programs across the Commonwealth.”

A bill was filed last year by Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington, which sought to place more scrutiny on the spending and programming of the state’s 15 area development districts and require additional financial reporting. The bill would have also brought the ADDs under the same oversight rules that have long governed other state agencies and local governments. The bill passed out of the House and Senate overwhelmingly, but failed to get a final vote the last day of session.

Watts stated that the Chamber will again be advocating for this legislation in the upcoming 2017 General Assembly.

During testimony Deputy Secretary Montell noted the Cabinet’s strong support and highlighted that legislation should:

• Ban bonuses or any other one-time payments to any ADD employee.
• Protect “whistleblowers” in accordance with state law.
• Require advertising of an open executive director position with adequate notice and sufficient time for interested candidates to apply.
• Require the ADDs to follow federal and state procurement statutes and regulations.
• Require review of all 15 ADDs within the next four years, to determine if their policies and internal controls are adequate. Further examinations would follow if necessary.

For more state government news go to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s The Bottom Line blog.