- Associated Press - Sunday, January 24, 2016

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - A cabinet secretary in Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration wants elected officials to rebid a multi-million-dollar workforce training grant.

The grant was awarded to the Bluegrass Area Development District in early January, the Lexington Herald-Leader (bit.ly/1Qmucik) reported.

State Education and Workforce Development Secretary Hal Heiner said in a recent letter that Bluegrass provided “incomplete and inaccurate” information to locally elected officials about its 2014 state auditor examination and investigations by two state agencies.

Bluegrass was one of three bidders for the federal grant that provides training for under-employed and unemployed workers in a 17-county region that includes Fayette County.

In addition to Heiner, one of the two other bidders also has raised questions about how the contract was awarded to the regional planning agency.

Community Action of Kentucky filed a challenge Wednesday to the awarding of the contract to Bluegrass. Community Action of Kentucky asked that Bluegrass be disqualified as a bidder because of conflicts of interest and Bluegrass’s prior poor audits.

Bluegrass represented to those that scored the bid that all issues that were part of a 2014 examination by former State Auditor Adam Edelen have been corrected and resolved, the newspaper reported.

“The cabinet does not agree with this statement,” Heiner said in his letter. “The eight findings of the (examination) have not been resolved.”

The 2014 examination found the district’s relationship with the workforce board was rife with conflicts of interest.

After that audit, the state created a competitive bidding process to administer workforce grants. In addition, the education cabinet and the Kentucky Department of Aging and Independent Living conducted subsequent audits and found $2.8 million in questionable costs between 2010 and 2013.

Bluegrass executive director David Duttlinger said Bluegrass complied with requirements of the bid request and was not trying to hide anything to those that scored the bid. Duttlinger said only two outstanding issues from the state audit are still unresolved.

Heiner’s letter was sent to the co-chief elected officials - Mayor Jim Gray and Boyle County Judge Executive Harold McKinney. A group of 17 locally elected officials award the workforce contract.

McKinney and Gray said they would take Heiner’s letter under review.

A request for proposals to administer the grant said it involves $11.4 million to be distributed from Dec. 2015 to Sept. 30, 2017, but that figure also includes carry-over funds from 2014 and 2015. In its bid, Bluegrass said it expects to spend about $4.8 million of the grant in 2016.

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Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, https://www.kentucky.com

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