At a meeting of the Capital Projects and Bond Oversight Committee on Tuesday, state legislators unanimously approved a motion for the Legislative Research Commission to hire an outside CPA firm to examine the financing of the Louisville Arena Authority.
The move comes days after Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s office issued an informal opinion at the request of the same committee, stating that the Arena Authority does not owe the Kentucky State Fair Board $7.5 million in reimbursements for business lost at the fairgrounds’ Freedom Hall to the downtown KFC Yum! Center.
Rep. Jim Wayne of Louisville, a member of the same committee, told Insider Louisville last weekend that he was disappointed with the opinion — delivered nine months after it was requested — due to its informal nature, its reasoning for forgiving the Arena Authority of its contractual obligation to reimburse the Fair Board, and the fact that it did not address their question about the conflicts of interest among the authority’s board members.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Wayne again criticized Conway’s opinion for not formally addressing the committee’s concerns. Afterwards, Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, also expressed his disappointment, putting forward a motion directing the LRC to allocate funds to hire an outside CPA firm to examine the financing of the Arena Authority.
Carroll’s motion passed the committee unanimously among the five members present. He has not responded to multiple inquires from IL over the last few days concerning his motion.
Wayne — who refers to the review as an “audit” — tells IL that the committee had no other option left in order to fulfill its oversight responsibilities, as state Auditor Adam Edelen passed the committee’s questions on to Conway’s attorney general office, and Conway’s office subsequently failed to give them clarity.
“Conway’s response wasn’t what we wanted,” says Wayne. “We wanted a formal attorney general’s opinion, and we didn’t get that. I don’t think it’s worth it to try to go back and say ‘give us a formal opinion,’ because he knew that’s what we wanted, and he didn’t give it to us anyway.”
Arena Authority chairman Larry Hayes did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the committee’s actions.