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After reading the Kentucky Auditor Crit Luallen’s audit report dated May 8, 2008, and several news articles that have been published in the past weeks by your newspaper regarding the Gaines issue, I am compelled to write this letter.
As a citizen, property owner, full-time resident and registered voter of Owen County, I was appalled to read about Owen County Deputy Judge-Executive Renaee Gaines manipulating payroll records and increasing her salary payments by more than $14,000 over a span of two fiscal years. These monies were diverted from the county’s ambulance fund, which this fund is in dire need to help the fire department/EMTs operate. No wonder our fire departments can’t operate on the funds when monies are taken from them. The county law states the fiscal court controls the employment status of all county employees. The law also requires the the judge-executive to discipline his staff. Where in the world was the oversight of the judge-executive or fiscal court and why wasn’t any immediate discipline action taken?
Next, I want to address the fact that it took two months after the Kentucky Auditor’s report for Judge-Executive O’Banion to place Mrs. Gaines on leave on Aug. 7 and this was only after the Owen County Attorney’s recommendation. When was the diversion of monies known ... at the audit or prior to that time by the judge-executive? Why administrative leave with fully salary was given to Ms. Gaines is beyond my belief. In one of the news articles, Judge-Executive O’Banion stated that he conducted an investigation on his own and he said there was no documentation of his investigation. That is another issue beyond my belief. Ms. Gaines was quoted in the newspaper of paying the $14,000 back to Owen County in July with three separate checks. This implies guilt and she should have never been put on paid administrative leave. At that point she should have been immediately removed from the Owen County workforce without pay.
The newspaper also stated that Owen County Judge-Executive Billy O’Banion initially called the case a financial oversight and no criminal intent existed. How could taking over $14,000 be a financial oversight? This again is beyond my belief. With the repayment of the monies, was interest applied? Hopefully, all the facts will come out in the grand jury trial.
Is the Gaines issue out of the judge-executive’s office the only issue at point? What about the Owen County Magistrates’ compensation and payment of hours worked for the citizens of Owen County? That could possibly be another investigation.
Perry Park, Ky.