Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Unbridled Business Climate

The Unbridled Business Climate

Who is the man that would risk his neck
for his brother man?

-Isaac Hayes

Government regulations assure that businesses play by the rules.

I’m wondering what rules some Kentucky businesses are playing by.

The state’s “Unbridled Spirit” slogan is starting to look like “anything goes.”

A few weeks ago, Mark Hebert at WHAS TV, broke a story about nursing home “watchdog” Moses Young. Until recently, Young had been the number two nursing home regulator for the state of Kentucky. He lives in a condominium owned by a nursing home owner that he regulated!

Young has been living, allegedly rent free; in a $175,000 condo owned by Ralph Stacey Jr. Stacey owns the Garrard Convalescent Center in Covington.

Of the millions of landlords in the world, Young found one who needed his blessing to stay in business.

It’s like a DEA agent renting from a drug dealer.

Young claims he paid Stacey $1300 a month in cash. He showed Hebert “receipts” for the cash payments. If Young is telling the truth, Stacey has a problem. The IRS will want to know if Stacey has been reporting the cash on his income taxes.

Young called Stacey 427 times on a cell phone supplied by the taxpayers of Kentucky.
I’d love to know what they were talking about.

After the nursing home story saga, an even bigger story broke.

On August 9, The Louisville Courier Journal and Corbin Times Tribune separately reported about an affidavit submitted to federal court by an FBI agent. It alleged that a rich and powerful contractor gave cash payments to a state transportation employee to get inside information about bids. .

If the allegations are true, what kind of signals are the regulators sending to the people they regulate? How could businessmen think they could get away with something so egregious?

Growing up in an environment where illegal activity took place, I got to watch the process of corruption.

It usually started at small levels. Business people would buy lunch for a public official or get them tickets to a sporting event. It then escalated to dinner and a free trip to Florida.

Buying condos and handing cash to state employees are completely over the line. Businessmen don’t do something that bold unless they don’t think it’s possible to get caught.

There is a good reason why businesspeople normally don’t bribe public officials. They are afraid of going to jail

If you are handing out bundles of cash, the fear of jail is not on your radar.

People must believe that Kentucky is “open for business” in a variety of different ways.

Take the case of the nursing home owner. There is no question that he owned the condo Young lived in. There is no question that Young made 427 calls to Stacey on a state cell phone.

The question is whether Young paid rent on the condo and if Stacey was tipped off before his nursing home was inspected. Those are questions that the Kentucky Attorney General and FBI need to find answers to.

The fact that the nursing home owner and Young, never thought their arrangement was questionable makes me wonder why kind of world they are living in.

427 calls seem outlandish. I can’t imagine that Young did anything all day, other than talk to Stacey.

Young got the condo in 2005. He was terminated in 2008. People that worked with Young should have seen something or said something. No one in that department was going to risk their neck for fellow man.

When the transportation allegation broke, one charge made little sense. It alleged that the contractor was personally giving the government employee cash packages.

The book, The Godfather, (and also the movie Godfather II) goes into great detail about how a Mafia king has “buffers” between themselves and people they were trying to bribe. The Godfather did not personally hand out cash; it was done at his behest.

If the allegation is true and the multi millionaire was giving out cash directly, you have to wonder how long the practice had been going on and how comfortable he was with it.

Businesses want a line between no regulation and too much regulation. Too much regulation strangles industry. No regulation means government like a banana republic. In a no regulation environment, your connections mean everything. Initiative and talent mean nothing.

I wonder about the degree of regulation if the people who protecting us are allegedly being furnished with nice condominiums and cash.

If the stories turn out to be true, Kentucky is operating in an unbridled business climate.

Don McNay is the author of the Unbridled World of Ernie Fletcher & Son of a Son of a Gambler. You can write to him at or read his award winning column at

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Feature about Sam Davies in Corbin Times Tribune

I was in Corbin this week and thrilled to see that the Corbin Times Tribune had done a terrific feature about Sam Davies.

Sam is not just one of the best lawyers in the United States, he is also one of the best husbands, father, and friends. He is a guy who will be there for you. He is fearless and has the quickest mind of anyone I have ever known.

I've mentioned Sam in my columns and books but the Corbin piece is a fuller picture.

Al Smith & Winning Against Addiction

Al Smith, and Winning Against Addiction.

Say you'll be alright come tomorrow, but
tomorrow might not be here for you.
- Lynyrd Skynyrd

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) announced that legendary Kentucky journalist Al Smith will be named a Fellow of the Society at their September convention in Atlanta.

Fellow of the Society is the highest honor SPJ bestows upon a journalist. Its for extraordinary contribution to the profession. Last year, Carl Bernstein (of All The President’s Men fame) was named.

Al is running with the big dogs.

Although Smith, former head of the Appalachian Regional Commission, is no stranger to the national scene, his greatest impact has been on the local and state level.

He understands the creed of helping people, one at a time and taking life one day at a time.

Al’s story is incredible when you realize that he came from extreme depths.

He fought a severe battle with alcohol early in his life. He lost numerous jobs in New Orleans and wound up in Russellville, Ky. There he stopped drinking, bought the paper he was writing for, bought other papers and ascended into greatness.

He made to the top by helping others. His demons were replaced by angels.

People battle different demons. Some more severe than others.

I’ve been fascinated by an Emmy winning television program called Life Or Meth on the Arts and Entertainment (A&E) channel. I didn’t know much about Meth addicts before the series. I do now.

I saw how Meth close it hits to home. They filmed part of the program outside my office. It doesn’t get much closer than that.

It’s been said that Meth addicts are almost impossible to cure.

Madison County Kentucky and neighboring county Clark County are giving it their best shot.

They piloted a concept called Juvenile Drug Court or “drug court” for short. Judge Brandy Brown and Program Supervisor Anna Beth Hardiman are featured in the A&E television program.

It looks like they are having success.

Addiction is something that society has to come to grips with. Throwing addicts in jail is a dumb idea. It doesn’t solve the problem or stop what drove them to addiction to begin with.

On the other hand, I can see the temptation to get addicts off the street, even temporarily. It reminds of when they routinely locked up Otis the drunk on the Andy Griffith show.

Otis was not a threat to another’s safety but many addicts are. People who drive while impaired, or commit violent crimes, are a danger to everyone.

Some countries don’t have addiction problems. They just shoot the addict. We operate a little differently here,

If drug court can make a dent in the addiction problem, I want to know more about it. I’ll use my access to the media to tell others.

How do I know if it works?

Al Smith would tell me, get out and do some digging. See first hand what is going on.

So that is what I am going to do.

I’m going to learn more about what drug court is about. I’ll observe the process and interview the people involved. Then I’ll write about the experience.

I normally don’t do firsthand observation but I want to get to the front lines of the war against addiction and see what is going on.

For every person stumbling through an addiction spiral, there is a potential Al Smith: Someone who can turn their lives around, turn other people’s lives around, and make an incredible impact.

If society is going to progress, we need to find the next generation of Al Smith’s, take them out of the grips of addiction and allow them to be productive.

We need to make some moves. Drug court is one of them. If we don’t combat the rising number of addictions, tomorrow might not be here for America.

Don McNay is Chairman of the Board for McNay Settlement Group in Richmond Kentucky. He is Secretary for the Bluegrass Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. You can write to him at or read his award winning column at