When is $350 an hour a bargain? Highlights from the latest state contracts

06/12/2012 02:57 PM

Taxpayers covered more than $100,000 in legal bills because of the court fight over legislative district maps this spring, former Kentucky League of Cities director Sylvia Lovely landed a $4,500 contract with the University of Kentucky and state transportation officials are preparing for lawsuits over the Louisville bridges project with a $350-an-hour contract with one of Kentucky’s top law firms.

All that came out Tuesday in the latest batch of state contracts, some of which were debated in the legislature’s government contract review committee.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet officials, for instance, defended the hiring of lawfirm Frost Brown Todd at $350 an hour, which is nearly three times the $125-per-hour maximum guideline rate. The firm will handle legal work for the Louisville bridges project that includes a new bridge between downtown Louisville and Indiana that Kentucky is responsible for building and a new bridge to connect I-265 across the Ohio River that Indiana will pay for.

Rebecca Goodman, the transportation cabinet’s director of legal services, said Kentucky is getting a much cheaper rate than Indiana and will rely on Frost Brown Todd to handle all the legal issues that arise. The initial amount of the contract is $50,000 to cover May 29 through June 30.

Republican state Sen. Paul Hornback of Shelbyville said the hire of Frost Brown Todd was a good move because he expected the project to attract lawsuits. Both Goodman and Transportation Cabinet Secretary Mike Hancock shook their heads in agreement about being sued.

Among the other recent state contracts of note:

  • Sylvia Lovely, the former executive director of the Kentucky League of Cities, received $4,554 for consulting fees for May 1, 2012, and June 29, 2012, for the University of Kentucky. According to the description of the contract, Lovely was to “develop a profile of Kentucky business, develop a strategic plan to implement in the CEO Gold Standard Program, tailor the program to meet the needs for Kentucky businesses, develop a program to use at the regional level and provide webinar training.”

UK recently announced it would lay off personnel because of budget shortages. Lovely stepped down from the League of Cities in 2009 after the Herald-Leader reported on high pay, travel and entertainment expenses approved by Lovely and other KLC executives. She has since opened her own consulting firm.

  • Attorney Sheryl Snyder received a $45,000 contract from the Legislative Research Commission from July 1 through June 30, 2013, to cover costs of his representation of the legislature in the lawsuit over legislative district maps. That case, Fischer v. Grimes, resulted in the Supreme Court throwing out the state House and Senate maps after ruling them to be unconstitutional.
  • Secretary of State Alison Grimes also paid a total of $57,500 to two law firms, Britton Osborne Johnson of Lexington and Tachau Meek of Louisville, for their work on behalf of the office and board of elections in the redistricting case this spring.
  • Harold F. Workman will make $172,951 from July through December 31 as president and CEO of the Kentucky State Fair Board. Workman announced he would retire at the end of the year during the fair board’s meeting in March. Workman also received an extra $8,453.22 because of money the board owed into Workman’s retirement after July 1, 2011, bringing his total compensation between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2012, to $626,561.
  • Laura Cullen Glasscock, publisher of the Kentucky Gazette that covers state government and politics, received a $17,605.50 contract with the Education Professional Standards Board to score portfolios submitted by Continuing Education Option candidates.

- Contract information compiled by Ryan Alessi with reporting and video from Frankfort by Nick Storm

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Pure Politics airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. ET and again at 11:30 p.m. ET in all of cn|2's Kentucky markets. The program features political analysis and news, as well as interviews with officials, candidates, policy makers and political observers.

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