Crews diputes claims in Kay's commercial in special election ... how accurate is the ad?

06/17/2013 06:00 PM

James Kay, the Democratic nominee in the 56th House District special election, took to the television airwaves of the 56th District over the weekend with an ad attacking the background of Republican candidate Lyen Crews.

Crews has touted his experience as chief financial officer for hospitals on his campaign website and during events with voters by saying the General Assembly needs an accountant.

But Kay’s ad seeks to undermine that. Crews most recently served as chief financial officer for Midway College. And the ad claims he was part of the leadership team that cost the college money in a failed attempt to start a pharmacy school. Before that Crews was CFO for Woodford Memorial Hospital in the mid-1990s. The hospital later filed for bankruptcy protection and eventually closed years after Crews left.

It’s the latest ad in the increasingly expensive and contentious June 25 special election in the central Kentucky district that covers Woodford County, western Lexington and eastern Franklin County.

The ad comes after a GOP super PAC — the Republican State Leadership Committee — launched an ad criticizing Kay, and independent candidate John Mark-Hack as being too liberal and “professionals at politics.”

Crews, who was campaigning over the weekend in Versailles, said Kay’s commercial is disingenuous by linking him to the financial problems of the hospital, which he said was on sound financial footing when he left in 1997.

“I am very proud to say, and the records show, if anyone bothers to go to the records – - which my opponent obviously has not – - if you go look at the records the records show the year that i left the was a profitable year for Woodford Hospital. After I was gone it started it’s decline it lost several hundred thousand dollars and went on down from there,” Crews said.

THE BOTTOM LINE: _The ad is technically factual but greatly overstates the roles Crews may have played in the hospital’s financial saga and college pharmacy school issue. Crews didn’t go to authorities on questionable spending by the former Woodford Memorial Hospital CEO but did take it to the hospital’s board. And records show that the hospital was in better financial shape when he was there than after he left. And he was part of the leadership team in Midway College when the school failed to open a pharmacy school. But accreditation was the biggest hurdle — not the finances. _

Woodford Memorial saga

The 990 tax returns of Woodford Memorial from 1998 include financial information the last year Crews worked at the hospital — 1997 — and the year after he left.

In 1997 the hospital ended the fiscal year with an operating loss of about $365,000 and more than $10 million in assets. The year after Crews left, the operating loss doubled and its assets dropped by $1 million.

Nancy Littrell, the former CEO of Woodford Hospital, was indicted on seven felony theft counts against her related to travel expenses. She was dismissed from the hospital in 1999.

News articles from 2000 quote Crews as saying Littrell’s travel increased from an average of $17,000 to $34,000 in 1995 and almost $66,000 in 1996 while Crews was the chief financial officer.

Crews told Pure Politics that he brought the spending to the hospital board’s attention, and began looking for a new job when the board failed to heed his concerns.

Littrell later went to trial for theft, and according to a September 2002 report in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Crews was called to stand to discuss Littrell’s travel expenses.

Crews testified that his analysis of Littrell’s travel showed that she owed the hospital nearly $17,000. The Herald-Leader article said:

“Under cross-examination, Crews said he never swore out a criminal complaint against Littrell to police, never recommended that the hospital board swear out a criminal complaint, and never offered to explain his spreadsheet of expense reimbursements to the board.”

Failed attempt for Midway College pharmacy school

As for what the ad says about the Midway College issue, Crews was CFO of the college when it embarked on an effort starting in January 2010 to create a non-profit pharmacy school in Paintsville.

Crews said in an interview Saturday that the college did lose $2 million in the effort but that the financing was in place and wasn’t the problem. The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education denied the school accreditation in three attempts in December 2010, May 2011 and December 2011.

By that point, the school already had commitments from 20 PhD students and had lined up pharmacy sites across the state where students would be able to get practical experience. But the accrediting council had curriculum concerns, Crews said. A Herald-Leader article from May 2012 reported that the Midway College Board of Trustees conceded that the effort wouldn’t go forward but that the accrediting agency didn’t give a reason for its concerns.

“It was like we had a Lamborghini sitting in the driveway all tuned up and a professional driver in the seat. He just couldn’t pull out of the driveway because he didn’t have a license,” Crews said.

Ryan Alessi contributed to this article

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm joined cn|2 in December 2011 as a reporter for Pure Politics. Throughout his career, Nick has covered several big political stories up close, including interviewing President Barack Obama on the campaign trail back in 2008. Nick says he loves being at the forefront of Kentucky politics and working with the brightest journalists in the commonwealth. Follow Nick on Twitter @Nick_Storm. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or



  • sam pierce wrote on June 17, 2013 06:18 PM :

    Lyen Crews did the best he could under the circumstances. He was only one person, but other people or, in the case of Midway College, circumstances beyond his control, were working against his best efforts. At least he didn’t have eleven speeding tickets in eleven years as James Kay does. We already have our Danica Patrick from Whitley County (the good Representative Regina Bunch). We don’t need a Democrat to try to race her.

  • Barbara Ellerbrook wrote on June 18, 2013 09:12 AM :

    Lyen Crews is needed in Kentucky’s State House. A fiscal manager who will monitor and report deficiencies in state spending is necessary for Kentucky to stabalize. Our economy is in trouble, we face an uphill battle with upcoming Medicaid expenditures, and we need someone who can work with both sides of the aisle and address our financial crisis. That person is Lyen Crews.

  • Bruce Layne wrote on June 18, 2013 10:56 AM :

    I hope the voters of Kentucky are becoming savvy enough to spot these political ads that would be slanderous in any non-political circumstance. They’re clearly filled with half truths and deceptive implications, voiced in ominous tones with evil lighting. When I see one of these sleaze ads, I assume the other candidate can’t win on substance or facts, and must resort to these underhanded lies.

    On the other hand, these negative ads are the mainstay of Kentucky politics, so they must be working.

    Want to eliminate these ads? There’s a free market solution. Punish the sleaze merchants by voting for the other candidate. It’s almost always the right vote, too.

    I still remember Jack Conway getting desperate and running those awful Aqua Buddha ads attacking Rand Paul’s religious beliefs. Those ads kicked in the afterburner on the crashing Conway campaign. Instead of simply losing, Conway made a big smoking crater. Kentuckians were put off by those negative ads, and Conway lost a lot of political capital, and that haunts him to this day… as it should.

  • Allen Holt wrote on June 19, 2013 12:01 PM :

    I am a life- long resident of Versailles. If memory serves correctly, the hospital was only in slightly better shape financially under Mr Crews because he went before the Versailles City Council and sought a “ government bailout” which the council agreed to for a year or two. Now, perhaps he was directed to do so by his bosses but it seems disenguinious to me to say he is against “ big government” but seek government help when it is in his own self interest. Either that, or perhaps he isn’t the best financial manager. Or maybe the hospital would have gone bust no matter what anyone attempted. My issue is simply that someone with credintials should actually look at the minutes of the Versailles City Council meetings from the time and see if my memory is correct. I truly believe it shows that Mr Crews isn’t always against government intervention in the private sector and that is in contrast to what he would have the voters believe ……….

  • Cumberland Gap wrote on June 20, 2013 10:23 AM :

    What did Crews do for Kentucky-American Water Co?

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