- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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July 20

Lexington Herald-Leader on state Attorney General Andy Beshear investigating the University of Louisville Foundation:

At the University of Louisville Foundation, according to an audit released last month, tens of millions of dollars intended to support the school’s academic mission, its students and teachers, were instead squandered on huge compensation packages for a few insiders, investments in questionable start-up companies, risky loans, questionable real-estate purchases and subsidies for the athletics department.

The university is contemplating suing former President James Ramsey and others to recoup some of the funds and whether it can make a claim on a $20-million insurance policy taken out against management mistakes and misdeeds.

But the only law-enforcement officer who has publicly shown any interest in investigating this mess is Attorney General Andy Beshear. After the audit, which found “gross mismanagement,” Beshear said his office would look into the foundation’s operations and requested more information from the university.

Good for him. Investigating possible public corruption, misuse of public funds or violations of the rules that govern nonprofits is his job.

The Kentucky Republican Party has assailed Beshear, saying he has a conflict of interest because in private practice he represented U of L and his former firm, Stites & Harbison, has represented the foundation. Beshear has not been a partner in the firm since the end of 2012, working there as a contract attorney after that, scaling back his involvement in 2015 as his campaign for AG geared up. He was elected that November.

Republican Party spokesman Tres Watson said Beshear should hand the matter to a special prosecutor. In Kentucky, that would have to be either a county or commonwealth’s attorney.

Easier said than done. Any investigation must look at how, over several years, the foundation managed its $800-million endowment, including examining real-estate purchases, loans to or investments in a range of businesses, special compensation packages and more. The forensic audit released last month took six months and cost $1.7 million, and the foundation board has set aside more money to pay for additional work by the auditors.

In other words: This is a huge, costly, specialized and complex matter, beyond the resources of county and commonwealth attorneys’ offices.

There could be federal interest in the foundation’s activities, as well, but there has not been any indication that the FBI is looking into the matter.

Certainly, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Louisville, which would likely prosecute any federal charges, could look into the foundation’s murky operations. But it’s awaiting new leadership as President Donald Trump only announced his choice for the top post there late last month and the U.S. Senate has not had time to act on the nomination.

It is appropriate, and essential, that the AG’s criminal staff - with experience and specialized skills - take a hard look at this important and complex case.

Online: https://www.kentucky.com/

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July 26

Daily News of Bowling Green on recent allegations against former governor and current state Sen. Julian Carroll:

Former governor and current state Sen. Julian Carroll has served this state well over a span of decades.

He should be commended for doing so. Carroll, as governor and state senator, has done many things to move this state forward. While we haven’t always agreed with the Democratic politician, we do commend his service to the citizens of this state.

That is why we were so surprised to learn of recent allegations against this longtime public servant. Last week, Spectrum News Pure Politics issued a report that claims Carroll propositioned and allegedly groped a then-30-year-old man in 2005. According to the report, Carroll, of Frankfort, told Jason Geis he would help him get into art school but allegedly propositioned him for sex. According to a record obtained and aired by Spectrum, Carroll asked Geis to masturbate him and to perform oral sex on him. In an interview with Spectrum, Geis also alleged that Carroll groped him.

The allegations were later investigated by the Kentucky State Police, and the county attorney who reviewed them decided that without proof of more than a request for sexual contact, there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue the case. We certainly trust that KSP and the county attorney in that investigation did their due diligence in reviewing these allegations, but now that they have been brought back to light, they are disturbing, to say the least.

On Sunday, the Senate Democratic Caucus voted to remove Carroll as minority whip and called on him to resign his Senate seat immediately. The Kentucky Democratic Party has also chimed in on this matter, saying it cannot overlook the severity of these allegations. We certainly see where the caucus and the KDP are coming from, because these are some very serious allegations.

Carroll, like every other American, is presumed innocent until proven guilty, so he does deserve that right. Interviewed about the report in a hallway in the state Capitol, Carroll denied the allegations, called them ridiculous and said they did not happen.

It is quite clear these allegations need further examination and more information is needed, either to clear Carroll’s name or to see if there is any merit to these allegations. What is also worth looking into is what Kentucky Republican Party spokesman Tres Watson mentioned: whether or not Frankfort politicians used their influence to alter the path of the investigation. If that is the case, then a full-blown investigation should be launched to figure out why that happened, if indeed it is proven that politicians used their influence to help Carroll.

We hesitate to say that Carroll should resign, because there simply isn’t enough information about the situation. But we do believe his continued silence, other than his few words in a hallway interview, on these most serious allegations certainly doesn’t help his situation.

Online: https://www.bgdailynews.com/

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July 20

Lexington Herald-Leader on Kentucky spending to incarcerate drug users during its opioid crisis:

Jenny Fulton’s brief life and brutal death hold important lessons, especially for Kentuckians in positions of public trust.

The 27-year-old woman died in 2014 in the Mason County jail where she was sent because she had relapsed into heroin use, violating her parole.

Despite widespread recognition that incarceration is not the solution, Kentucky still spends millions of dollars jailing people who have drug use disorders when that money could be better spent on evidence-based treatment.

After two years clean, Fulton relapsed following gall bladder surgery. The medicines she was prescribed to ease post-surgical pain may have re-triggered her opioid abuse. The opioid crisis confronts prescribers with many complicated challenges, including how to treat pain without inviting addiction and relapse.

Pills are cheaper than physical therapy and other non-opioid treatments. But there is no evidence that opioids are effective against chronic non-cancer pain while some data suggest they worsen outcomes. Insurers should be required to pay for non-addictive pain treatments. Long-term savings would justify the short-term costs.

Kentucky also needs more doctors who are trained and certified to treat drug use disorders. The Medicaid expansion, now at risk of repeal by Congress, expanded treatment, but access to treatment still pales beside the threat to public health. “If this were a communicable disease, we would be wearing hazmat suits to combat it,” Kentucky Justice Secretary John Tilley recently told a congressional committee.

Kentucky recorded 1,404 overdose deaths in 2016, most due to opioids, legal and illegal. Kentuckians need on-demand access to medically-assisted treatment and mental health therapy. Recovery specialists should be on call in emergency rooms.

In Kentucky, overdose death rates are highest in some rural areas where jails are least prepared for medical complications. Half of state inmates are housed in county jails. If we are locking up people who are sick, we owe them care.

The callous neglect of Jenny Fulton as she suffered for four days beggars belief. The Mason County Detention Center employed a nurse and nurse practitioner and knew that Fulton suffered from Crohn’s disease. Opioid withdrawal causes dehydration. As Valarie Honeycutt Spears recently reported, after days of vomiting and diarrhea, Fulton was so dehydrated that her hands curled inward and she could hold a Gatorade bottle only between her knuckles. A jail sergeant predicted to a deputy, “They’re going to fool around and let her lay there and die.” They did - then got off easy with a $750,000 settlement with Fulton’s family.

An early victim of the opioid crisis, Kentucky has responded in smart ways, including increasing treatment slots in state prisons by 1,100 percent (to 5,901) since 2004 and launching a pilot program to prevent fatal overdoses among parolees by making naltrexone treatment available. Thirty counties have needle exchanges.

As one of the hardest hit, Kentucky still has a long way to go.

The changes in insurance that Republicans are trying to push through Congress would devastate recovery efforts in places already reeling.

Jenny Fulton could be anyone’s neighbor. Kentucky owes our neighbors better; that will require inspired leadership and commitment from health care and government.

Online: https://www.kentucky.com/


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