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BGADD asks for meeting with governor to ‘restore order to chaos’ around workforce, aging services

David Duttlinger answers questions after the press conference. (Photo by Judy Clabes)

David Duttlinger answers questions after the press conference. (Photo by Judy Clabes)

By Judy Clabes
KyForward editor

David Duttlinger, executive director, and the local elected officials who govern the Bluegrass Area Development District issued a public plea to Gov. Matt Bevin for an opportunity they’ve been requesting for several months — a face-to-face meeting to work out their differences.

In a well-attended press conference on Tuesday at the BGADD offices, Duttlinger said, “The BGADD is determined to restore order to the unnecessary chaos that has been created by spinning and misconceptions about the good work provided for the citizens of our region.”

Duttingler was referring to two recent events emanating from the governor’s office, both of which are being appealed through legal channels: the transfer of Workforce Development work to Louisville entities and the precipitous move of the Aging services to a for-profit entity.

Duttlinger summarized recent history of the BGADD, going back to 2013 when its board invited the state auditor, then Adam Edelen, to review the organization’s management and fiscal practices. The auditor’s findings identified eight problem areas, all of of which “were addressed in a full and expeditious manner.”

Duttlinger asking for direct meeting with governor.

Duttlinger asking for direct meeting with governor.

The result, he said, was a change in top leadership, upgrades of computer systems and software, new policies regarding record-keeping, strong internal checks and balances, purchase of the building they were occupying, and intense training for the board of local elected officials.

“There are a few,” said Duttlinger, “who don’t want to acknowledge the changes and progress of the BGADD because they have personal agendas that have nothing to do with serving the people of the Bluegrass region.”

He urged everyone to appreciate “due process” and to appreciate that rules governing grant administration are “designed to correct, not punish or destroy organizations that administer these programs.”

“Today’s new BGADD does not have a financial problem or a management problem or a performance problem,” he said, citing three years of clean audits and high performance marks.

“Does it really make sense that our region’s workforce development programs should be managed from Louisville?” he asked. “Does it really make sense that our services to our senior neighbors in need should be turned over to a for-profit enterprise that will answer to a private governing board and not to elected officials? Does it really make sense that elderly advocacy should come from Frankfort instead of the local level?”

Vicki Spurlock who cares for a disabled child, said, "I don't feel comfortable with the state taking this over."

Vicki Spurlock who cares for a disabled child, said, “I don’t feel comfortable with the state taking this over.”

The funds involved in workforce development and aging services are federal funds, not state funds, he pointed out. Stewardship for these federal funds falls to local elected officials in regions established by the state, based on federal requirements.

Federal Law in the 1968 Intergovernmental Cooperation Act prompted Kentucky to establish a state law in 1971, urged by Gov. Louis Nunn, to set up 15 Area Development Districts in Kentucky responsible for regional planning and cooperation, so that “even the smallest of Kentucky counties would have a voice and access to resources.” Federal funds flow through the state to these development districts which are governed by local elected officials from each county.

Forty-seven years of proven service later, a “hostile takeover” of this public-good work, said Duttlinger, “is not a good government decision and it is not a good business decision.”

“There is a process that should be followed,” Duttlinger said. “. . .To that end we will fight to preserve the rights of local units of government and to protect the integrity of our local elected county officials.”

Sixteen of the 17 local elected officials agree that the BGADD is doing a good job and should continue to do the work. Mayor Jim Gray, the lone dissenter, resigned from the board last week. Officials of the surrounding and smaller regional counties remain unified in the support of the BGADD’s work.

A number of attendees at the press conference were clients of BGADD’s aging services — and were vocal about the good service they receive and their concern about the state’s actions.

“I’ve made call after call and get no answers,” said Vicki Spurlock, mother of a disabled child. “There really are no plans in place.”

Jerry Ulmer of Richmond echoed the concern.

“We don’t want a change,” he said. He told KyForward later that BGADD and his caseworker, Holly Tussey, are the “best thing that ever happened” to his family. He moved his mother-in-law out of a nursing home to in-home care when he was told she had only a month to live. That was four years ago and while “it is very hard to care for an elderly person with dementia,” she is well cared for and well fed now, thanks to the help he gets from the BGADD’s aging programs.

Irene Hoskins of Danville has an autistic daughter. “I wouldn’t trust her care to a for-profit,” she said. “I’m happy with the quality of help I get from the Bluegrass ADD.”

Duttlinger said the BGADD board is committed to to supporting the employment of all Bluegrass ADD employees through July. “Our people are good people with families to support — It may be 100 ‘jobs’ to somebody else, but it’s 100 human beings and friends and colleagues to us.”

The board has turned to the “legal system — the rule of law — to protect reason in the public policy areas. We believe that when and if the facts and not the politics are adjudicated by a non-partial mediator, arbitrator or judge, with all the politics removed, that justice will be found.”

See the video of the press conference here.

Full text of Duttlinger’s remarks here.

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