Correction: Fayette Audit-Edelen story

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Associated Press

Posted on May 30, 2014 at 2:12 PM

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — In a story May 28 about audits of public school districts, The Associated Press erroneously reported the nature of Kentucky School Boards Association training seminars. The seminars are held for school board members, not superintendents. Furthermore, the seminars described in the story are conducted by a number of instructors, not communications director Brad Hughes.

The AP also erroneously reported the name of the superintendent for Fayette County public schools. His name is Tom Shelton, not Tom Sheldon.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Eyeing run for governor, Edelen examines schools

State Auditor Adam Edelen, eyeing 2015 run for gov., rooting out millions in waste in schools

By ADAM BEAM

Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — At the Kentucky School Boards Association's training seminars, instructors have a way of getting school board members to pay attention.

"You don't want to wait until Adam Edelen is coming in looking at you," said Brad Hughes, the association's communications director.

Edelen, Kentucky's Democratic state auditor, has been in office less than two years. But in that time he has audited 16 public school districts, identifying millions of dollars in waste and abuse.

Former Dayton County Superintendent William "Gary" Rye was sentenced to two years in federal prison because of one of Edelen's audits. And last week, Attorney General Jack Conway announced the indictment of former Mason County Public Schools Superintendent Timothy G. Moore, an investigation also prompted by one of Edelen's audits.

On Wednesday, Edelen announced his 17th school district audit: Fayette County Public Schools, the state's second largest school district, which includes the city of Lexington. The announcement comes one week after Edelen completed an audit of the state's largest school district - Jefferson County, which includes Louisville - and found the administration cost taxpayers millions of dollars because of inefficient operations.

And all of this is happening while Edelen weighs a 2015 run for governor.

"I campaigned on it. Frankly I don't think a lot of people believed that I would do it," Edelen said of his public school audits. "I wanted to make my own unique contribution. I think certainly from this term, it is the degree to which I as the taxpayer watchdog have planted my flag firmly in public education."

Edelen had said he would wait to announce his political plans until his office finished its audit of the Jefferson County Public Schools, which it completed last week. Edelen said Wednesday he will announce his plans in the "coming weeks." He told The Associated Press this latest school district audit would not delay his announcement.

This will be the second time Edelen has examined Fayette County. His first audit in July 2013 found no major problems. This audit will examine allegations from the district's budget director that an accounting error created a $20 million deficit in the district. Superintendent Tom Shelton said the district's internal review showed no errors. He said he asked Edelen to examine the county's finances as a precaution.

"Because it was a public accusation, we wanted to make sure that we had the state auditor to review those," Shelton said.

Edelen's audits could be risky, given the volatile nature of local school board politics. At least two Jefferson County school board members have publicly criticized Edelen for using the powers of his office for political purposes.

Board member Linda Duncan said it was telling that Edelen's Jefferson County audit only looked at the administrators, and not the teachers - who she says are backed by a powerful union that Edelen would need if he were to run for governor.

"He's taken full advantage of the public nature of what he's doing," Duncan said. "And that was why I didn't want it here. I just did not want to be a platform that he used to launch a campaign."

Former auditor Crit Luallen, who decided not to run for governor in 2015, said taking political risks is part of the job.

"I had a lot of advice along the way on some of the more controversial audits I did that I should steer clear, that it was politically damaging if I followed a particular route," she said. "It is better for you to just do the job you were elected to do. That in the end is the best political strategy."

Edelen - the former chief of staff to Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear - said he believes his work is worth any political risk.

"Kentucky's only salvation is going to be a world class system of public education," he said. "You can't build that when resources aren't getting to the classroom."

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