Edelen agreed with the need for more oversight, although an official with the Kentucky League of Cities later told the committee the cities don’t need more “state centralization or oversight.”
Rep. Rita Smart, D-Richmond, spoke of her personal experience as a one-time member of Richmond’s city council. “For three months we never had a treasurer’s report.”
Smart eventually learned the city had run deficits for several years, dipping into reserves to make ends meet until the reserve fund was depleted.
“I was appalled,” Smart said. “And we had an audit every year.”
Committee Co-Chair Rep. Steve Riggs, D-Louisville, suggested the law be revised to require alternate year audits of county governments to free Edelen and his staff to examine city governments.
“That would be robbing Peter to pay Paul,” said Edelen who said he could not support anything which would diminish the current level of oversight.
Sen. R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester, chided the committee for complaining to Edelen about problems arising from the way the laws are written.
“It is our responsibility to decide whether we want cities to have some oversight as counties do,” Palmer told his colleagues. “It is our responsibility to fix that.”
After Edelen, it was the Department of Local Government’s turn to answer to the lawmakers. State law passed by the General Assembly requires city audits and financial reports to be submitted to DLG but gives DLG no authority to monitor or examine city operations.
Following the debate over city audits, Midway Mayor Tom Bozarth, president of the Kentucky League of Cities, told the committee the KLC’s top legislative priority is legislation to allow local communities to levy a 1-percent sales tax for specific projects for a limited time upon approval by the city’s voters.