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Kentucky Emergency Management director resigns amid spending scandal

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - The director of Kentucky Emergency Management has resigned just two days after the agency was slammed by a team of auditors who reported misuse of taxpayer money, intimidation of employees and an overtly hostile workplace.

John Heltzel submitted his resignation to the governor Thursday morning.

"The findings in the recent Auditor’s report made it clear that new leadership was needed in the agency, given the numerous questions and grave concerns it raised about the proper handling of funds, reliable and transparent accounting, and appropriate work environment under the general’s direction," said Gov. Steve Beshear in a statement about Heltzel's resignation.

On Tuesday, Auditor Adam Edelen said the agency Heltzel oversaw was accused of misspending million in recent years, some of it on alcohol, entertainment and door prizes at conferences.

“In a state that has its share of horrible natural disasters in recent years, wasting tax dollars intended for emergency response is inexcusable,” Edelen said.

The team that conducted the review says it found documents that had been altered to hide inappropriate expenditures. Edelen said his team identified much as $5.6 million in questionable spending.

“The report paints a picture of agency leadership that does not believe the rules apply to it,” Auditor Edelen said. “The findings raise concerns about waste and abuse that may have gone undetected and jeopardize federal funding meant to prepare the Commonwealth for emergencies.”

Managers of the agency disputed the auditor's findings, which are being turned over to the U.S. Office of Homeland Security, the Kentucky attorney general's office and the Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission.

“Although KYEM has distinguished itself in response to a number of natural disasters, that does not excuse the lack of commitment to effective stewardship of taxpayer dollars,” Auditor Edelen said.

The governor appointed Mike Jones, the current administrative officer for Military Affairs, as acting director of KYEM.

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