Governor accepts resignation of head of Emergency Management in wake of scathing audit

08/08/2013 03:24 PM

Gen. John Heltzel resigned Thursday as director of the Kentucky Emergency Management agency in the wake of an audit this week that detailed intimidation and a hostile workplace.

Gov. Steve Beshear announced that he accepted Heltzel’s resignation Thursday morning, citing the need for “new leadership.” And Beshear appointed Mike Jones, administrative officer for the state Department of Military Affairs, as the agency’s acting director. He tasked Jones with drafting a corrective action plan based on Auditor Adam Edelen’s report.

“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,” Beshear said in a statement.

Still, Beshear praised Heltzel for the agency doing “a remarkable job in assisting cities and counties in recovering from the record number of natural disasters that have hit the commonwealth in the last few years.”

Edelen’s audit found as much as $5.6 million in questionable expenses between 2007 and 2012. And employees of Emergency Management told auditors they were threatened if they spoke to auditors. The report also outlined a potential conflict of interest Heltzel had by hiring a firm with which he had previously worked to develop software.

Edelen, who formerly headed up the Kentucky Department of Homeland Security during Beshear’s first year in office, said forcing Heltzel’s resignation was the “proper course of action given the serious nature of the findings.”

“Today’s action begins a process of renewal. It is my hope that these incidents of waste and abuse do not tarnish the reputations of the vast majority of public employees who conduct the peoples’ business with integrity and commitment,” Edelen said in a statement.

Kentucky Republican Party Chairman Steve Robertson said Beshear should have fired Heltzel as soon as the audit became public.

“Governor Beshear pledged in his 2007 inaugural address to ‘strengthen protections for whistleblowers,’” Robertson said. “I hope he will send a clear message to the employees of KYEM that they have no fear whatsoever of retaliation by any of his political appointees who remain in that office.”


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