Thayer calls for overhaul Kentucky Horse Park Commission; seeks state audit

02/12/2016 02:13 PM

FRANKFORT – Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, says the Kentucky Horse Park is being mismanaged and has filed a bill which would reconstitute the Kentucky Horse Park Commission.

Thayer fears that some currently on the board are there as a result of political patronage to former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.

Senate Bill 200 calls for nine members of the board selected by the governor, which is half of the current number of the commission. Three would be selected based on their marketing; business, finance management or special event management, and the other six members would be appointed from a list of three names submitted to the governor by numerous equine associations in the state.

In early December, in one of his final executive orders, Beshear appointed his wife, Jane, to the Kentucky Horse Park Commission. Thayer first became aware of the situation at the Horse Park after receiving numerous complaints.

“I started receiving calls from many members of the staff who complained of low staff morale and political patronage being made by those who run the horse park,” Thayer said.

Thayer indicated that he had no confidence in the parks executive director, Jamie Link, commission chairman Alston Kerr, and Kentucky’s former first lady.

Thayer then discovered that an audit had been conducted by the Finance and Administration Cabinet, which covered from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2014, that revealed a number of financial irregularities.

Thayer highlighted a number of the findings of that audit in a floor speech on Friday.

“The Kentucky Horse Park is not monitoring payments to vendors, and had violated its small purchase authority,” Thayer said.

As a result of those findings, the bill calls for a full audit of the park by state Auditor
Mike Harmon.

Thayer says his bill is simply to protect one of the state’s biggest tourist treasures and allow as many people as possible to experience the setting.

“I do think the fees charged to rent the horse park facilities have priced out several of our breed associations and breed groups in Kentucky,” Thayer said. “I want to find out, are political patronage deals here? Is there self-dealing at the Kentucky Horse Park? Are there kickbacks being charged, because it’s become the park of the few and the privileged, not the people’s park.”

The discussion over Thayer’s bill led Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, to question whether the state should look at divesting itself of potential liabilities like the Kentucky Horse Park and use the proceeds to pay for the struggling public pension plans.

“I would suggest that in some accounting circles, we would transfer some of those assets from one side of the balance sheet to the other,” Bowen said. “Appropriate the sale of some of these assets to our KTRS pension plan and our KERS pension plan.”

Thayer hopes to have the bill heard soon in committee.


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