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State Audit: Estill Misused Homeland Security Grant

FRANKFORT, KY -- Estill County misused about $10,000 in homeland security grant money to help a local official buy retirement time for himself, State Auditor Crit Luallen told the Lexington Herald-Leader, reported in its Saturday edition.

Luallen is referring her office's audit report to state and federal agencies, including the Kentucky Department of Military Affairs, which supplied the grant money from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Herald Leader reports.

"My concern about this is, we're in very difficult financial times where every dollar counts," Luallen said. "So whenever our audits find something like this that clearly falls outside the guidelines of proper expenditures, we ought to make every effort possible to try and recover the money."

Gen. John Heltzel, at the state Department of Military Affairs, said he has imposed new rules so future grants can't be spent this way in Kentucky unless the federal government approves in advance and in writing, reports the Herald-Leader.

"I don't want you to get the idea that we think this is OK and we're going to let it happen again," said Heltzel, director of Kentucky Emergency Management.

But the official for whom retirement time was purchased, Estill County Emergency Management Director Fred Rogers, said he did nothing wrong.

Rogers, 52, said he agreed to take his current job more than a decade ago if the county would help him buy credit-time in the County Employees Retirement System, so he can draw a pension in the future, the newspaper reports.

Rogers said part of his salary properly is paid by homeland security grants from the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program, a federal program that gives money to Kentucky counties surrounding the Bluegrass Army Depot near Richmond, where hazardous weapons are stored.

CSEPP funds are to be used for community safety, which is his job, Rogers told the newspaper.

Estill County clearly stated in its budget that $9,952 in CSEPP funds would be used as reimbursement for money spent buying his retirement time, Rogers said. Nobody at the state Department of Military Affairs or the Federal Emergency Management Agency who saw the county's budget warned that it would violate any rules, he said.

FEMA spokesman Kurt Pickering at the agency's regional office in Atlanta said he was unaware of the situation and had no immediate comment, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.

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