Audit: Bath County officials spent on projects it couldn't afford

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A politically troubled county on the fringe of Kentucky's Bluegrass region had a nearly $600,000 deficit last year, according to a state audit released Tuesday.

Bath County, located about 100 miles west of Louisville, started out in financial trouble last year and local officials continued spending on unbudgeted road projects, the audit said. Local officials authorized spending money on road paving projects, knowing the county could not pay for them, according to the audit.

"It continues to show that Bath County has poor financial management that has put the county in a precarious situation," state Auditor Crit Luallen said in a statement. "The very solvency of the county is in question."

The audit report comes as Bath County experiences turmoil among top county leadership posts.

Former County Judge-Executive Walter Bascom Shrout resigned Monday after he was convicted of conspiring to buy votes in last year's primary race. Shrout, who was told by a federal judge to resign, was also found guilty of obstruction of justice and making false statements to a federal agent.

Meanwhile, former Bath County Attorney Donald "Champ" Maze also was forced to resign after pleading guilty to vote-buying charges. And former Property Valuation Administrator Paul Goodpaster died in February.

The audit also found that Shrout took out about $63,600 in personal loans for the county's payroll obligations. The personal loans were repaid by the county but without approval from the fiscal court, the audit found.

And one employee was partially paid in cash and allowed to keep profits from selling scrap metal out of a transfer station, the audit found. Among other things, the audit also found that the fiscal court's official minutes did not accurately reflect what happened.

Rich Ornstein, an attorney with the Governor's Office for Local Development, said state officials met with Bath County officials about eight times trying to get them to "function properly." Still, the county is in better financial shape compared with about a year ago and should be "back in the black" by the end of the year, Ornstein said.

"I fully expect that by the end of this calendar year that theywill be in good fiscal shape running their county in a proper fashion," Ornstein said.

On the Net:
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(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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