In detailing the distressing waste, fraud and abuse in the operations of the City of Somerset city government, Auditor General Adam Edelen also found many employees fearing retaliation -- being fired -- if they told the truth about wrongdoing they knew about. Mr. Edelen, as part of his report, recommends that the General Assembly extend the protections of the Kentucky Whistleblower Act to city and municipal employees. You can read Bill Estep's excellent coverage of this report in the Lexington Herald-Leader: State Auditor On Problems Found in Somerset; "This is not how a city ought to be run." If not satisfied, read the Auditor General's report here.
Mr. Edelen's suggestion would reverse a misguided decision by the Kentucky Supreme Court a few years ago that ruled that city and municipal employees were not protected by the Kentucky Whistleblower Act. This ruling disregarded language in the Act stating that a covered employer included any "political subdivision" of the state and legal precedent dating back to the 1930s (at least) ruling that a city or municipality was a political subdivision of the state. The ruling also disregarded the Court's observation in an earlier case that the Whistleblower Act should be broadly construed to effectuate its purpose of offering protection for public employees that disclose or report wrongdoing, presumably of precisely the sort that the Auditor Genereal details in his report regarding the Somerset city government. And it went against a federal appeals court decision holding that the Whistleblower Act did apply to cities, a case of mine in fact, Kindle v. City of Jeffersontown.
It seems at best unlikely in the extreme that the General Assembly would take up Mr. Edelen's suggestion. The Somerset city government officials claim that the Auditor General's report is wrong and unfair. Just in terms of geographical proximity Somerset is close to Senate President Robert Stivers of Manchester and House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover of Jamestown, who -- one would expect based on decades of observing Kentucky politics -- would not want to do something that would make their allies in Somerset upset and certainly not something that would highlight the work of a rising Democratic star such as Auditor General Adam Edelen.
Lexington, Kentucky whistleblower lawyer Robert Abell represents individuals and employees in whistleblower cases; contact him at 859-254-7076.