A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

KyCIR: During NTI, ‘participation’ definition varied from school to school; questions abound on future

By Graham Ambrose Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting In March, as the state hunkered down for a pandemic, Kentucky schools launched one of their largest educational experiments ever: remote learning for every child. It was an unprecedented challenge requiring unprecedented creativity. To reach their students, educators made phone calls and left voicemails, wrote text messages and emails,...

Constance Alexander: How many more canaries are in the mine when it comes to sexual harassment?

A little more than a year ago, it became public that then-Speaker of the Kentucky House, Jeff Hoover, had secretly settled a sexual harassment claim with a twenty-something female legislative aide. While Hoover denied the charge, he did admit to sending inappropriate text messages, insisting they were “consensual,” according to an Associated Press report by Adam Beam. The secret agreement was signed...

State Rep. Dan Johnson refuses to resign in face of reports of 17-year-old’s sexual abuse allegations

Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting Kentucky Rep. Dan Johnson refused to resign Tuesday morning and said an allegation that he sexually assaulted a teenager “has no merit.” Johnson, speaking at a news conference at his Heart of Fire Church in Fern Creek, denied ever committing arson or molesting a then-17-year-old member of his church in 2013. He implied that the story by the Kentucky Center...

KyCIR: Critical safety issues plague Kentucky’s juvenile detention centers, report says

By Kate Howard Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting Kentucky’s juvenile detention centers overuse isolation rooms and lack basic mental health care for the thousands of youths that cycle through the system each year, a state consultant has concluded after an eight-month review. The newly released report states that the commonwealth’s detention centers had no mental health professionals...

KyCIR: Finance secretary reverses committee decision, approves U of L request for legal expenses

By Kate Howard Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting The state’s finance secretary approved the University of Louisville’s request to spent $1.25 million more on legal expenses, reversing a legislative committee’s decision earlier this month. The financial sign-off marks the latest step in the back and forth drama over the cost of U of L’s reforms. Last week, the state government contract...

KyCIR: U of L says private groups, not state, will cover most of $2.2 million cost of audit

By Kate Howard Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting Two local philanthropic groups will pay most of the costs of the taxpayer-funded, $2.2 million forensic investigation of the University of Louisville’s troubled nonprofit organization, the university announced Tuesday. The C. E. & S. Foundation and the James Graham Brown Foundation — both of which threatened to pull support last fall...

KyCIR: Kentucky ACLU sues Bevin over blocking select followers on social media accounts

By Ryland Barton Kentucky Public Radio The ACLU of Kentucky is suing Gov. Matt Bevin for blocking people on Facebook and Twitter, saying the governor is violating the free speech rights of his constituents. The challenge was filed on behalf of two Kentucky residents who say they have been “permanently blocked from engaging in political speech” on the governor’s official social media pages. “I...

KyCIR: Fugitive Eastern Kentucky attorney Eric Conn’s latest trick: Turning flight risk into reality

By Eleanor Klibanoff Kentucky Center for Investiogative Reporting Eric Conn, eastern Kentucky’s infamous fraudster, has been running from the law for over a month now. Facing up to 12 years in prison, Conn sliced off his ankle bracelet, dumped it onto I-75 and — depending on who you believe — hightailed it to a country that’s difficult to extradite from, perhaps Cuba or Ecuador or Thailand. For...

KyCIR: U of L leaders required to report conflicts of interest, but disclosures not always reviewed

By Kate Howard Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting The University of Louisville asks its staff to disclose potential conflicts of interest, but it’s no secret the disclosures haven’t always been scrutinized. A U of L Foundation audit, released this month, called out unnamed trustees and other decision-makers who personally invested in foundation-backed startups but never disclosed it. Papa...

KyCIR: Public reaction swift, sharp to scathing audit of U of L Foundation’s financial practices

By Kate Howard Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting Fallout from the scathing audit of the University of Louisville Foundation started to take hold late last week, while attorneys for two top former school executives pushed back against the allegations. The foundation’s chief financial officer is currently on paid leave. Meanwhile, a major donor expressed disappointment in the revelations...

KyCIR: Papa John’s CEO Schnatter files revised conflict of interest disclosure form with U of L

By Kate Howard Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter filed a revised conflict of interest disclosure with the University of Louisville this week, following questions about his business ties with the school. The latest conflict of interest form has significantly more detail than the form he filed in March, when Schnatter cited multiple business ties and a loan...

KyCIR: Schnatter, U of L officials keeping quiet about details surrounding financial ties to the school

By Kate Howard Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting John Schnatter had deep ties to the University of Louisville well before he landed seats on the school’s board of trustees and its foundation. But just how deep? No one will say. Schnatter indicated business ties and a loan — to or from the university — on his conflict of interest form, a document trustees are required to file annually....

KyCIR: Detention common occurrence for Kentucky youth, even when they haven’t committed a crime

By Kate Howard Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting Margie Beitz’s son had been gone nearly two weeks when she decided to file a court petition labeling him a runaway. She and her husband were blindsided by his anger. The youngest of five children, Isaiah despised rules in a way the others never did. Doctors and inpatient treatments were temporary fixes until insurance money ran out, and the...

KyCIR: Some felons’ rights restored by Bevin’s action, but dozens more left waiting on sidelines

By Kate Howard Kentucky Center for Investigative Journalism Early this week, Gov. Matt Bevin returned voting rights to 24 Kentuckians with felony convictions. “We have always been a nation of second chances,” Bevin said in a press release announcing the action. But 98 percent of the people who’ve asked Bevin for a second chance since he took office are still waiting. The Department of Corrections...

KyCIR: Jailer, medical review plans pass; attempts to rein in state’s constables unsuccessful

By R.G. Dunlop Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting Countless issues of public interest and importance received attention during the state’s latest legislative session, which wrapped up with a flurry of activity late Thursday night. Several of those matters have been a focus of Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting coverage in recent years. Here’s an update on what became law and what...

University of Louisville Foundation halts controversial deferred compensation plan

By Kate Howard Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting University of Louisville Foundation leaders put an end Tuesday to a controversial deferred compensation plan that doled out an extra $20 million to U of L administrators. The U of L foundation board voted unanimously to kill the plan. A replacement plan cannot be created for at least three years, according to IRS rules. The supplemental pay...

KyCIR: Kentucky’s animal shelters are falling short and failing animals; improvement complicated

By R.G. Dunlop and John Boel Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting LEBANON, Ky.—As the visitors approached, three black dogs at the Marion County Animal Shelter leapt against the front of their wire-enclosed pen. Water covered the concrete floor of their cage, mixing with piles of feces. The dogs had no clean, dry place to stand, sit or lie, as state law requires. Kay Turpin, the county’s...

KYCIR: Amid uncertainty, University of Louisville leaders cashed out big perks in ‘run on the bank’

By Kate Howard Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting All eyes were on the University of Louisville and its foundation last summer. Its president was ousted and its finances scrutinized. Both boards were hamstrung by turnover and uncertainty. University trustees were publicly threatening to sue the foundation. Meanwhile, some of the university’s highest-paid employees were making a run on the...

Report commissioned by Bevin claims state workers pushed to donate to Democrats under Beshear

Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting Staff Report An investigation commissioned by Gov. Matt Bevin found that state workers under the previous governor’s administration were solicited to donate to Democratic political campaigns, a violation of state law. The report, released Wednesday, says 16 employees across six different state cabinet offices alleged they were asked to make political contributions,...

KyCIR: Veteran investigator for state attorney general’s office fired for lying to grand juries

By R.G. Dunlop Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting A veteran investigator for Attorney General Andy Beshear has been fired for misconduct that included lying to grand juries. David Reed Wilbers lied in at least two criminal cases in recent years, records show. He was the only witness to testify. Both cases eventually were dismissed. Wilbers also made “false or misleading” statements to...