10.01.2008 0

A Draud Fraud

  • On: 10/10/2008 15:49:41
  • In: Government Transparency

  • What is it with politicians and cars these days? First, the car-kiting scandal. Now this: While Kentucky schools are experiencing budget cuts lately, at least one member of the state education department seems to have missed the memo. During this time of tight spending, Commissioner of Education Jon “Fraud” Draud was caught red-handed—having spent $30,000 of taxpayer money on a 2008 Chrysler 300, upgraded with over $12,000 in perks.

    Kentucky’s economic woes were well-publicized during the lead-up to its primaries last month. The schools were especially hit hard, attempting to cut spending by roughly 7%.

    The car has a starting price of $18,101, but with requested add-ons – including a bigger engine, GPS navigation system, and hands-free phone—the cost rose an additional $12,596. The car’s invoice stated that the V8 engine upgrade (at $10,946) was necessary for its navigation system to be installed.

    As the story broke, Commissioner Draud claimed he did not know that the price was so high. Unfortunately for him, email conversations he had with the state’s deputy finance secretary tell a different story. The secretary attempted to get Draud to “reconsider” the high cost of his request, given that most state officials were happy driving a vehicle which was much less expensive than the Chrysler 300. The two had a discussion about the purchase, given the state’s current budget situation, but Draud moved forward anyway.

    But even if Jon Draud was being truthful in not knowing the cost of the car, the issue would still raise serious questions. If the state education commissioner was so lax in checking the expenses on his personal car, what other state expenditures were escaping his review? Gross negligence in the oversight of taxpayer funds is hardly a good defense.

    It is too late for Commissioner Draud to return the car, but, as one bright citizen suggested in response to the news article, a $13,000 check to the state from Mr. Draud would solve the problem.

    ALG Perspective: Whether gross negligence with taxpayer resources or maliciously gouging hard-earned dollars, neither looks good during economically hard times. Public officials who are entrusted with taxpayer dollars have an obligation to the people to spend it wisely. Perhaps Commissioner Draud should spend the first state-wide trip in his new car apologizing to the citizens he ripped off.

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