Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Ky. Wildlife Chief Spent $71K on Travel since 2008 ; Economic Development Chief Spent Less

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Ky. Wildlife Chief Spent $71K on Travel since 2008 ; Economic Development Chief Spent Less

Article excerpt

FRANKFORT, Ky. - During a time of fiscal belt tightening across state government, Kentucky's wildlife commissioner spent more than $71,000 to attend meetings across the country, running up more expenses for out-of-state trips than even the governor's chief industrial recruiter, whose job requires extensive travel. Jonathan Gassett took some 20 trips to Washington and excursions to more than 20 other states since 2008, all with the blessing of his bosses at the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press through the Open Records Act show Gassett's travels included stops in a handful of resort areas, including Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and Monterey, Calif., and that he's eaten meals at Hooters in Richmond and at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Miss.

The AP found state bureaucrats have spent more than $128 million on travel since 2008 amid the worst economic recession in a generation. The recession led to a $1 billion state budget shortfall and forced deep spending cuts on government services and programs.

Some agencies slashed up to 30 percent of their budgets, but travel was largely spared. The documents showed a relatively meager $2.1 million reduction - about 7 percent - in travel spending over the past four years.

Richard Beliles, head of the government watchdog group Common Cause of Kentucky, said the reluctance of state leaders to cut travel spending "shows they're not sensitized to what the people in this recession are suffering."

Beliles called for top state government officials to crack down.

"We're struggling through the second-most negative economic climate that we've ever had, and it just boggles my mind that they would be this careless with the public's money," he said. "I think more than shocked, I think people would be outraged."

Gov. …

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