Inves&ga&ng	
  
quasi-­‐public	
  agencies	
  
John	
  Cheves	
  
Lexington	
  (Ky.)	
  Herald-­‐Leader	
  
jcheves@herald...
What	
  is	
  a	
  “quasi-­‐public	
  agency”?	
  
•  It	
  gets	
  public	
  money,	
  performs	
  a	
  public	
  
func&o...
If	
  it’s	
  our	
  money,	
  it’s	
  our	
  business.	
  
“Ghost	
  government”	
  
•  In	
  2012,	
  State	
  Auditor	
  
Adam	
  Edelen	
  es&mated	
  
that	
  $2.7	
  billion	
 ...
“Ghost	
  government”	
  
•  The	
  governing	
  boards	
  at	
  
these	
  agencies	
  do	
  not	
  
always	
  comply	
  w...
Finding	
  my	
  local	
  quasis	
  
•  Database	
  at	
  Kentucky	
  state	
  auditor’s	
  website	
  
lets	
  you	
  che...
Owsley	
  County,	
  Ky.	
  
•  Booneville/Owsley	
  Fire	
  
District,	
  Island	
  City	
  Fire	
  
District,	
  Vincent...
Lexington	
  Public	
  Library	
  
Lexington	
  Public	
  Library	
  
•  $134,000	
  in	
  credit	
  card	
  spending	
  by	
  library	
  
CEO	
  and	
  $350...
What	
  tools	
  can	
  I	
  use?	
  
•  Open	
  Records/Open	
  
Mee&ngs	
  laws	
  
•  Guidestar.org	
  
•  hVp://
www.c...
Open	
  Records	
  and	
  Mee&ngs	
  
•  Ky	
  Open	
  Records	
  Act	
  covers	
  an	
  agency	
  if	
  it	
  
gets	
  at...
What	
  records	
  do	
  I	
  request	
  
•  Budgets	
  (including	
  supplementary	
  material)	
  
•  Audits	
  (and	
  ...
Guidestar.org	
  
Lawsuits	
  
Human	
  sources	
  
•  Execu&ves	
  in	
  charge,	
  board	
  leaders,	
  the	
  
agency’s	
  aVorneys	
  
•  Find	
  the...
What	
  am	
  I	
  looking	
  for?	
  
•  How	
  does	
  it	
  spend	
  its	
  money?	
  Excessive	
  pay	
  at	
  
the	
 ...
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Investigating Quasi-Public Agencies by John Cheves

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John Cheves, investigative reporter at the Lexington Herald-Leader, presents during the Reynolds Center's free workshop, "Investigating the Business of Government," in Lexington, Ky.

For more information on business coverage training for journalists, please visit http://businessjournalism.org.

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Investigating Quasi-Public Agencies by John Cheves

  1. 1. Inves&ga&ng   quasi-­‐public  agencies   John  Cheves   Lexington  (Ky.)  Herald-­‐Leader   jcheves@herald-­‐leader.com  
  2. 2. What  is  a  “quasi-­‐public  agency”?   •  It  gets  public  money,  performs  a  public   func&on  and  some&mes  can  raise  taxes   •  But  it’s  run  by  its  own  appointed  board,  not  by   elected  poli&cians  answerable  to  voters,  and  it   might  not  consider  itself  a  government  en&ty   •  Examples  include  airports,  libraries,  health   departments,  water  districts,  community   ac&on  councils,  housing  authori&es,  area   development  districts  and  bus  systems  
  3. 3. If  it’s  our  money,  it’s  our  business.  
  4. 4. “Ghost  government”   •  In  2012,  State  Auditor   Adam  Edelen  es&mated   that  $2.7  billion  passed   through  Kentucky’s  quasi-­‐ public  agencies  every   year,  oUen  with  liVle   oversight  by  elected   poli&cians  or  the  news   media  in  their   communi&es.  
  5. 5. “Ghost  government”   •  The  governing  boards  at   these  agencies  do  not   always  comply  with  ethics   rules,  spend  money   wisely,  conduct   independent  financial   audits,  keep  a  proper   budget  or  welcome   scru&ny.   Photo:  Tax  Credits  
  6. 6. Finding  my  local  quasis   •  Database  at  Kentucky  state  auditor’s  website   lets  you  check  for  them  by  county:   hVp://apps.auditor.ky.gov/public/theregistry/ cai.html   •  Also,  think  about  your  community  and  your   news  coverage.  Who  runs  public  housing  in   your  town?  The  bus  system?  The  Head  Start   program  for  toddlers?  The  industrial  park?   The  volunteer  fire  departments?  The  library?  
  7. 7. Owsley  County,  Ky.   •  Booneville/Owsley  Fire   District,  Island  City  Fire   District,  Vincent  Fire   District,  Owsley  County   Extension  Service,  Owsley   County  Public  Library,   Owsley  County  Health   Department,  Owsley   County  Soil  &  Water   Conserva&on  District,   Pine  Ridge  Industrial   Authority,  Owsley  County   Ac&on  Team  
  8. 8. Lexington  Public  Library  
  9. 9. Lexington  Public  Library   •  $134,000  in  credit  card  spending  by  library   CEO  and  $350,000  in  credit  card  spending  by   others  at  library  at  CEO’s  direc&on   •  Paid  $3  million  for  a  $1  million  parking  garage   •  Red  flags  were  raised  by  auditors  and  chief   financial  officer,  all  of  whom  were  ousted   •  AUer  our  stories  published,  new  spending   controls  enacted,  CEO  fired  and  Lexington   mayor  replaced  library  board  members  
  10. 10. What  tools  can  I  use?   •  Open  Records/Open   Mee&ngs  laws   •  Guidestar.org   •  hVp:// www.ci&zenaudit.org/   •  Lawsuits   •  Human  sources  
  11. 11. Open  Records  and  Mee&ngs   •  Ky  Open  Records  Act  covers  an  agency  if  it   gets  at  least  25%  of  its  funds  from  state  or   local  gov’t;  or  if  it’s  created  by  state  or  local   law;  or  a  majority  of  its  board  is  appointed  by   a  public  en&ty.   •  Ky  Open  Mee&ngs  Act  covers  an  agency  if  it’s   created  by  state  or  local  law;  or  established  by   state  or  local  gov’t;  or  a  majority  of  its  board  is   appointed  by  a  public  en&ty.  
  12. 12. What  records  do  I  request   •  Budgets  (including  supplementary  material)   •  Audits  (and  there  had  beVer  be  audits)   •  Mee&ng  minutes  of  governing  board  (don’t   forget  special  commiVees  if  there  are  any)   •  Also  could  be  useful:  contracts,  wriVen  and   electronic  correspondence  (but  be  specific),   payroll  database,  spending  records  about  your   agency  from  the  government  that  funds  it  
  13. 13. Guidestar.org  
  14. 14. Lawsuits  
  15. 15. Human  sources   •  Execu&ves  in  charge,  board  leaders,  the   agency’s  aVorneys   •  Find  the  maverick  -­‐  the  one  clear-­‐eyed  board   member  who  demanded  more  informa&on  or   the  chief  financial  officer  or  auditor  who  was   fired  for  asking  too  many  ques&ons   •  Employees  (past  and  present)  and  clients   •  Officials  at  the  government  that  funds  it    
  16. 16. What  am  I  looking  for?   •  How  does  it  spend  its  money?  Excessive  pay  at   the  top?  Poverty  wages  at  the  boVom?  Big   credit  card  bills  for  travel,  meals  and  giUs?   Costly  real  estate?  Inside  deals?  Nepo&sm?   Poor  management  that  leads  to  deficits?   •  How  does  it  do  its  job?  Are  the  community   and  its  client  base  sa&sfied?  Is  it  rated  well  by   any  oversight  agency  responsible  for  that?  
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