A teenage girl’s death in a detention center. Golden parachutes for university execs. Staff misconduct in the juvenile justice system. Political payoffs and crooked politics. It’s been quite a year of journalism at the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.
From county constables running amok to costly shenanigans at the University of Louisville, here are nine of our biggest investigations in 2016.
Kentucky’s constables are gods unto themselves, armed with badges and guns but almost always with no formal training. And their actions have grave consequences. We collaborated with WAVE-3 to bring you this investigation into the unchecked world of county constables.
In the wake of our reports, some state lawmakers called for changes. Meanwhile, Lexington city council members are reviewing policies and planning reforms.
When 16-year-old Gynnya McMillen died mysteriously in a juvenile detention center in January, KyCIR’s R.G. Dunlop was on the case. His dogged reporting questioned aspects of the official story, held officials accountable and made national headlines. The head of the state Department of Juvenile Justice was ousted amid scrutiny of Gynnya’s death.
Citing our journalism, lawmakers proposed legislation to create a panel to review deaths and near-deaths in state correctional facilities.
In a follow-up investigation, KyCIR’s Kate Howard dove deeper into the juvenile justice arena, reporting that lack of supervision — leaving residents unattended, skipping bed checks and falsifying logs — was frequent in the detention centers and a sign, according to experts, of a system-wide cultural problem.
Nearly 39,000 state misdemeanor cases ended in probated jail sentences in 2015. How many of these probation cases went to private companies is anyone’s guess because no one keeps track. The companies operate under no contracts or legal agreements with the state, counties or the courts they serve. Read our glimpse into the costly, opaque private probation industry.
Some of the biggest stories in Kentucky this year have centered on the University of Louisville, including the latest in an athletics sex scandal, an FBI investigation and financial shenanigans concerning the school and its nonprofit fundraising arm. In this investigation, Kate Howard revealed that the university’s nonprofit fundraising arm took a 99 percent ownership stake of a vacant factory in Oklahoma at the behest of a big donor.
The move appeared to have no academic purpose and raises ethical red flags, experts said. The foundation unwound the deal after Howard started asking questions.
Following U of L president James Ramsey’s resignation, this story uncovered the extraordinary, lavish pay packages and perks he bestowed upon his top deputies. Ramsey’s own buyout was $690,000, but the cost of his pledges to top executives was worth millions more from school coffers.
The headline says it all. We examined 11 college endowments in Kentucky and found that the biggest colleges invested in exotic, expensive and risky funds — and earned lower than average returns.
In October, KyCIR documented cases in which a veteran investigator with the state attorney general’s office had lied under oath. Medicaid fraud investigator David Reed Wilbers had repeatedly been accused of lying to grand juries in order to obtain indictments. He was placed on administrative leave amid questions about his work history and conduct.
Following the bribery indictment of Tim Longmeyer, the former Kentucky Personnel Cabinet head, KyCIR dug into issues surrounding him. James McNair reported that politically appointed cabinet employees were devoted Democratic donors.
When Longmeyer resigned and went from one state government job to another, he joined the long list of so-called “double-dippers” on the state payroll who also received retirement benefits.
And what about those tied to Longmeyer? KyCIR profiled the consulting company at the center of the corrupt payouts.