May 19th, 2019 by Don Thrasher, Political Editor The Kentucky Legislative Ethics Statute protects the citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky from legislators that have conflicts of interest or even the appearance of conflict of interest. A legislator is supposed to make legislative decisions in the best interest of WE THE PEOPLE.
A legislator is not supposed to benefit financially from holding office. But somehow in the contentious Republican primary race for KY Attorney General the conflict of interest that Wil Schroder has, hasn’t been brought to light.
Let’s look at the facts, the fact is Wil Schroder was elected to the KY Senate from Senate District 24 in 2014. Once Schroder was sworn in he was hired by the powerful law firm of Dinsmore & Shohl. Schroder was hired by Dinsmore to represent local governments on obtaining bonds and helping to get local cities and counties into more debt. One has to ask themselves why did Dinsmore hire Schroder. Up until 2014 Schroder had only been employed as a prosecutor in the Campbell County Commonwealth’s office prosecuting criminal cases.
So why would one of the most politically powerful law firms in the US hire someone to be a public finance attorney representing cities and counties, whose only job until that time was prosecuting criminals. I’m sure it is common for big powerful law firms to hire assistant prosecutors with no experience in the private sector when the person being hired just became a state senator. Shortly after taking the job at Dinsmore, Shroder begins his quest to become chairman of the Senate Local Government Committee. Eventually Schroder is named Chairman of the KY Senate State and Local Government Committee. So now we have an attorney that is making a large salary who up until then prosecuted criminals, all the while his clients he represents certainly have substantial interest in the outcomes of legislation passed or not passed through the Local Government Committee of which their attorney is the chair of.
In early 2019 House Bill 49 came to Schroder’s Local Government Committee, the bill was unpopular with officials in cities and county governments throughout the state because it gave taxpayers the ability to get together and get a petition signed to recall property tax increases by electronic signatures. Why would this be important to property taxpayers? The current law says a petition has a time limit so it is very hard for grassroot groups to get enough signatures to recall a tax increase in a short time window, so it is very rare that it happens. Well HB 49 was meant to allow electronic signatures on the petition, so imagine being able to start a Facebook page “Louisville Property Tax Recall Group” which could then get peoples signatures over the internet.
This would have been a real game changer for taxpayers. The problem is city and county officials never want to see citizens have an ability to reduce taxes themselves, so who did the local government officials lobby to so that this was curtailed and somehow stopped? That is right the Senate Local Government Committee had the power to pass a bill that would make it easier for taxpayers or they could have killed the bill. With Schroder being the chair of the committee he is the one that dictates which bills are heard in his committee. So the same group (local government officials) that Schroder represents in his private sector job (for an extremely large salary) doesn’t want the citizens throughout the state to be able to recall taxes.
I was one of the people that called Wil Schroder and asked him to please make sure that all taxpayers in the Commonwealth should be able to have electronic signatures for tax recall petitions. A lot of other people that I talked to thought as I do as I am sure an overwhelming majority of taxpayers would want to have electronic signatures. In this case Schroder pushed HB 49 through his committee explicitly excluding 118 KY counties from being able to petition for a tax recall via electronic signature.
Kentucky Law is very clear on the issue of Legislative Ethics. KRS 6.606 requires that:
•A public official be independent and impartial;
•A public official not use public office to obtain private benefits;
•A public official avoid any action which creates the appearance that he/she is using
public office to obtain a private benefit;
•Government policy and decisions be made through the established processes of
•The public have confidence in the integrity of its government and its public officials.
Now the man that threw taxpayers of 118 counties in Kentucky under the bus because he sided with Local Government Officials (which he is the attorney for some of them) wants to be Attorney General of Kentucky. I asked Wil about this on his candidate Facebook page this week, only to discover I have been blocked from asking questions and my questions were removed. So the man that claims to be a protector of Freedom of Speech, only will defend that freedom if he agrees with it.
Republican voters this Tuesday need to tell this political elitist that it is time for someone to be Attorney General of Kentucky that will stop this kind of thing, not be the poster boy for conflict of interest. Shame on you Wil Schroder!