FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo has been staying
with his in-laws in Frankfort while receiving a $30,000-a-year
housing allowance from the state in an arrangement that hasn't gone
unnoticed by budget negotiators and political rivals.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Leeper, a Paducah
independent, acknowledged Tuesday that he had heard "quips" in
recent weeks from some state lawmakers about the $2,500 monthly
payments, but that the money hasn't been stricken from any versions
of a state budget being drafted in Frankfort.
Mongiardo, one of 10 candidates in Kentucky's U.S. Senate race,
also is being criticized for the arrangement by his political foes.
Mongiardo is running for the seat being vacated by Republican Jim
Bunning, a 78-year-old baseball icon who opted to retire than seek
a third term.
"No one likes to see this kind of waste of taxpayer money,"
said David Adams, campaign manager for Bowling Green physician Rand
Paul, one of the Republican U.S. Senate candidates. "But it gives
us another opportunity to point out that Rand Paul is a taxpayer
running against a group of professional politicians."
Mongiardo campaign spokesman Kim Geveden defended the housing
allowance, saying "there is nothing illegal, unethical or
untoward" in receiving it.
Geveden also pointed out that Mongiardo was among a group of
state leaders who gave up 10 percent of their salaries over the
past two years to help balance the budget. Mongiardo, who makes
about $100,000 a year, has given up about $20,000 in wages over the
past two years, Geveden noted.
Allison Haley, a campaign spokeswoman for rival Democratic U.S.
Senate candidate Jack Conway, charged that Mongiardo was
"pocketing money that is supposed to be used for housing." Haley
called it a "clear abuse of the public trust."
Geveden said Mongiardo, a physician from eastern Kentucky,
maintains a home in Hazard where he still sees patients two days a
week and where he returns on weekends. And last year, Gevedeon said
a company Mongiardo owns purchased an aging Frankfort farmhouse
that had fallen into disrepair. Geveden said Mongiardo intends to
move into that house after it is revamped.
Mongiardo listed his in-laws' home as his official address on
both his marriage license in June 2008 and his daughter's birth
certificate in December 2009.
Providing a housing allowance to lieutenant governors began
under former Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who saw it as a
cost-cutting measure. Before that, Kentucky had provided lieutenant
governors with a Frankfort mansion, which cost more than $300,000 a
year to operate.
Lawmakers agreed to the housing allowance, and turned the
mansion into a meeting place and museum, eliminating the need for
24-hour security and other staffers.
The nonpartisan watchdog group Common Cause of Kentucky said
receiving the housing allowance sends the wrong message at a time
when the state is facing a $1.5-billion budget shortfall brought on
by the recession.
"I think the lieutenant governor should think about whether he
ought to keep that or not," said Common Cause of Kentucky chairman
Richard Beliles. "I don't know that I would criticize him for
doing it, but I think it would be a nice gesture for him to return
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)