The 5th floor conference room of Lexington’s city hall was jam packed again yesterday, as Johnstonpalooza continued with 4 hours of questioning for LFUCG Law Commissioner Logan Askew.
Here’s a summary of what went down at the marathon session:
Myers opened the meeting by sharing Bruce Sahli’s letter to the committee that stated he will not appear unless he is forced to by a court order. Yes, I know, shocking behavior.
Mountjoy also sent the committee a letter in response to Newberry’s letter last week, saying they will release the fraud reports if Johnston gives them a waiver. But as we will find out later in the meeting, they already have them. Back to that in a bit…
McChord made an “opening statement” of sorts, that basically mimicked Jim Newberry’s letter from last week, saying that since Johnston said he did not specifically accuse a person of fraud in his fraud reports, this somehow means that his allegations are meaningless and the committee should be dissolved immediately. Hope springs eternal…
Logan Askew then took the big chair, and Lawless asked him if the Stoll Keenan lawyers were representing him pro bono or if the city was paying for it. Askew said that he is paying for it. Lawless then asked what his lawyers are getting per hour, and David Rouse loudly objected.
This is fascinating considering the fact that Lear and Rouse charge about $400 per hour, which means that after 8.5 hours before the committee, plus the many hours compiling documents and preparing for his testimony, it is quite possible that Askew owes close to $20,000 already. That is, unless, he’s getting a discount from SKO. However, if he is getting a discount, that would violate the law, as
“No officer, employee or immediate family member of an officer or employee shall knowingly accept any valuable gift, whether in the form of service, loan, thing, or promise, from any person, firm or corporation which to his knowledge is interested directly or indirectly in any manner whatsoever in business dealings with the urban county government, agency of the urban county government, or constitutional officer by which he is employed, under circumstances in which it could reasonably be inferred that the gift was intended to influence, or could reasonably be expected to influence the officer or employee in the performance of his public duties“
Considering this firm has been hired for legal work over the past few years by Logan Askew himself for eleventy thousand dollars, this certainly makes the exact rate that Lear and Rouse are charging Askew relevant. Has Askew already written them a retainer check? If so, for what amount? And are they being charged their standard rate, or at a discount?
Anyway, moving on…
Crosbie asked Askew about Johnston bringing up KLC’s conflict of interest with Collins & Co., but Askew claimed that Johnston never ever brought that up with him. Well, he didn’t recall, at least. So Askew is basically claiming that while Johnston brings up this conflict in his 2008 fraud report, he never mentioned it to Askew.
Askew then went into one of his many beefs with Marsh (insurance) during the meeting. He said he complained that Marsh did not give him a recommendation on whether to buy AIG or KLC in 2007. That’s when Linda Gorton chimed in to read from Marsh’s email that said that based on the city’s needs, AIG was the best fit. Gorton and Myers also noted that Marsh’s attachment to this email was not provided to the committee. Askew continued to say that Marsh didn’t provide a recommendation, because he disagreed with their characterization of the city’s needs. Myers and Gorton both asked for Askew’s response to this email, which (like the attachment on the aforementioned email) seemed to be missing from Askew’s packet of emails. Askew assured the Council that if it wasn’t in there, he would get it to them soon.
The discussion then went into the weeds of the insurance bidding in 2007, with Askew bringing up the following points: “We’re talking about something from 3 years ago”. “We were trying to compare apples to apples (why the numbers matrix changed)”. “We gave the Council more choices than they had ever received when it came to purchasing insurance”. “We could go back and ‘what if’, but this was the best that I can do”. His basic point was that if what was presented to the Council got changed around, he only did it to give the Council better information, not to tip the game towards KLC. There was a lot of back and forth with Lawless KLC bundling and having services added to their bid at the last second. As I said, in the weeds.
After the break, McChord went into a call and response session with Logan Askew that almost seemed scripted (but wasn’t!). McChord went into how much better Askew’s way of buying insurance and giving information to the Council was than how Johnston used to do it back in the Isaac days. McChord would say “what I’m seeing is..” and go into his opinion of how awful Marsh was and how much better Askew was than Johnston, to which Askew would pick up and elaborate on.
Then McChord asked how we know that Johnston isn’t making the story up about being offered a board seat with KLC by Bill Hamilton, after which McChord was silent, as he’d done his job for the day.
Askew was asked if he’d ever gone on a trip offered by KLC, or attended a lunch/dinner provided by them. Askew says that he went on no trips and always paid for any meals with them. He also said that Johnston never told him about the KLC board position offer.
Askew said that it was Bruce Sahli that provided him with Johnston’s fraud report after he filed the ORR in September of 2009 for it. You know, the one with Johnston’s name not redacted. Askew wouldn’t say if it was improper to leave Johnston’s name on it. Because that’s, like, totally up for debate and stuff. Askew also said that Sahli might have tipped Joe Kelly off to this info, but he wasn’t sure. He also said that he “could not recall” if Kelly told him what the investigation was about before he filed the ORR, and that Sahli never discussed the claims with him. Askew answered that he was not surprised by seeing Johnston’s name on it, just surprised by his “bogus claims”.
Then came a rather large event, as George Myers started his questioning. Earlier, he had asked if Askew had ever told anyone that he disagreed with Johnston’s priorities. Askew said that he could not recall such a conversation. Myers then asked him if he filled out a fraud questionnaire in 2008 discussing problems within an agency. Askew said that he could not recall doing so.
Myers then pulled out Askew’s 2008 fraud survey that he filled out. And handed it to him. Myers then preceded to hammer away at the McChord/Newberry argument that because Johnston didn’t directly accuse a specific person of fraud in his survey, that it was meaningless. Myers asked Askew if, on his fraud survey, he accused someone of committing fraud, or if he just listed potential allegations of fraud. He also asked if fraud was defined on this survey. Askew’s answer was basically the same as Johnston’s, as this is what fraud assessment surveys are for: giving anonymous concerns about potential fraud within a department to be investigated.
What’s also interesting is that Mountjoy apparently gave the Council false info, as they said that only one employee had submitted a fraud report (twice). Nope, I guess that makes two, no?
But Myers wasn’t done. He asked if anyone was given a copy of Johnston’s fraud assessment survey after the Spring of 2010. Askew said that he was “not aware of this”. Myers then asked if he was aware of Johnston sending an email to Linda Rumpke (Newberry’s Finance Commissioner) with his 2008 and 2009 fraud surveys attached and Askew was cc’d on. Rut roh. Myers gave him the email.
Apparently, Askew couldn’t view them on the cc. But Askew claims that Linda Rumpke had the fraud surveys right there in her email, but didn’t look at them. That’s right, didn’t look at them. Not interested!
So let’s recap. Newberry is demanding that Mountjoy release Johnston’s fraud surveys, even though all he has to do is ask his Finance Commissioner: “hey Linda, can you open up those attachments in your email and give them to me?” And this is the same Mayor who repeatedly claims that no one in his administration has seen the fraud reports. Because, you know, Linda Rumpke never opened the attachment and shared it with anyone. Or never saw it long before that, like in the fall of 2009 or anything like that, when Sahli and Kelly and Askew were buzzing about it.
If you believe this story, you’re just really really gullible.
What’s also of note about the McChord/Newberry argument: if they think Johnston’s fraud survey answer means that the committee is useless and should be shut down, have they also expressed to Crit Luallen that her state audit should be shut down as well? What’s the difference?
Anyway, that was about it for Monday’s meeting. The next episode is this Friday at 1:00, where Joe Kelly and Linda Rumpke are set to take the hot seat. Tune in on the Twitter Contraption live, as always.