STANFORD — With the unveiling of his online "citizen auditor" database last month, Kentucky State Auditor Adam Edelen brought light to what he called a "shadow government" — more than 1,200 special taxing and non-taxing districts he says operate with little or no accountability or oversight.
But according to Edelen's database, Lincoln County's special districts are largely in compliance with state laws.
Edelen's database allows anyone to search through all of Kentucky's special districts by name or county and see how the districts performed during fiscal year 2011 in four areas of compliance.
The database rates each special district on the following criteria:
• whether it responded to a survey sent out by Edelen's office;
• whether it submitted its budget for approval to the appropriate supervisory body;
• if it's a taxing district, whether it submitted a special financial report known as a "UFIR;" and
• whether it has had an audit recently enough to comply with state law.
Every special district in Lincoln County responded to the survey sent out by Edelen's office about its financial activities.
Out of Lincoln's nine special districts, only one — Lincoln County Fire Protection District — is definitely out of compliance with state requirements for regular audits and an annual financial report known as a "UFIR."
The fire protection district's last audit was in 2002, according to Edelen's database, which is built off of information submitted by special districts.
Lincoln County Fire Chief Danny Glass said until this year, it had never been made clear to his special district what was required for it to do.
"You had so many different people telling you different stuff," he said.
Fire protection district officials couldn't figure out if the special district had to have an audit every year or every four years, or even if the district was required to have an audit at all, Glass said.
But now after a special forum this summer, Glass said all the confusion has been taken care of and officials know that an audit is required once every four years.
"They (district board members) are going to comply by the law," Glass said. "They're not trying to avoid the law or anything."
Glass said the board is in the process of hiring an auditor, but an audit has not begun yet.
Other Lincoln County districts are probably in compliance, even though the database says otherwise.
Edelen's database currently lists the Lincoln County Solid Waste Management area as being out of compliance with submitting its budget to the Department of Local Government, but that classification may be an error.
Lincoln and Garrard counties merged their solid waste departments in March 2010 to create a special non-taxing solid waste management area district.
Nathan Cryder, chief policy advisor for Edelen's office, said the solid waste management area is listed in the database as out-of-compliance on its budget because the DLG has no record of the district existing for the 2011 fiscal year.
But Solid Waste Director Chris Thomason said he's sure his district filed all the appropriate paperwork with the DLG when it was first incorporated.
"The DLG's attorney signed off on it, so they absolutely do know (we exist)," Thomason said.
A copy of the inter-local agreement forming the Garrard/Lincoln Solid Waste Management Area provided to The Interior Journal by Thomason shows the creation of the district was signed off on by DLG Staff Attorney Andrew Hartley and DLG Director Tony Wilder.
Hartley has not yet been reached for comment.
The McKinney Water District is the only other Lincoln district not currently listed as being in 100-percent compliance, but that is likely an error as well.
The database currently lists the water district's compliance with auditing requirements as unknown, but Cryder said some districts that submitted physical copies of their audits haven't had their ratings updated within the database yet.
A McKinney Water District employee confirmed a physical copy of the district's 2011 audit was mailed to Edelen's office within the deadline given to the district.
Edelen's database lists no compliance issues for Lincoln's six other special districts, which are:
• Lincoln County Ambulance taxing district;
• Lincoln County Extension taxing district;
• Lincoln County Health taxing district;
• Lincoln County Library taxing district;
• Lincoln County Soil & Water Conservation non-taxing district; and
• Stanford/Lincoln County Industrial Development Authority non-taxing district.
In the counties surrounding Lincoln, Edelen's database lists compliance issues for six of Casey's 10 special districts, five of Pulaski's nine; one of Rockcastle's seven; three of Garrard's eight; and three of Boyle's eight.