News Around the State

Justice says Ky. debts will be paid

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice says companies linked to him won’t shirk millions of dollars owed in Kentucky but he didn’t say when payments would be made.

Justice announced Monday that coal companies linked to his family have paid all the delinquent taxes they owe in West Virginia and its counties. But the Lexington Herald-Leader reported Wednesday that records from county clerk offices show more than $2.5 million is owed across at least five Kentucky counties.

The newspaper said some of the counties are struggling to fund schools and social services due to budgetary shortfalls.

Justice said he wants to pay everything as soon as possible. But he has transferred control of the companies to his children and couldn’t say how the companies are working to pay the debts.

Coal miners’ union picks fiery president to serve 6th term

TRIANGLE, Va. (AP) — The United Mine Workers of America has elected Cecil Roberts to a sixth term as head of the coal miner’s union.

Roberts, 71, is known as a fiery, passionate speaker and has battled in recent years to protect retired union worker pensions as the coal industry has slumped. He has led civil disobedience protests that sometimes end with him and other union miners being arrested.

The West Virginia native said in a release Wednesday that he will focus on retired miner pensions, mine safety and preserving jobs. Roberts says the union will “fight for those pensions to our last breath.”

Roberts and his leadership team received nominations from 307 out of 308 local unions that held nomination meetings over the summer. The presidency of the union is a five-year term.

New scholarship offered to community college students

VERSAILLES, Ky. (AP) — A new scholarship is available to students enrolled in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.

A statement from the school system says the 15 to Finish scholarship will pay $500 to students who successfully complete 15 credit hours in a semester and sign up for 15 hours the following semester. Officials say the aim is to help students complete their associate degrees in two years or less.

The statement says studies show students who take at least 15 hours per semester are more successful.

The scholarship is being offered beginning this fall to new and current students.

Doctor’s conviction upheld in Social Security fraud scheme

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — A federal appeals panel has upheld the conviction of a Kentucky psychologist charged alongside a lawyer who pleaded guilty in a more than $500 million Social Security fraud scheme.

News outlets report 47-year-old Alfred Bradley Adkins is serving a 25-year sentence after being convicted of conspiracy, fraud and making false statements. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling against the Pikeville psychologist Tuesday.

A prosecutor’s motion says attorney Eric Conn or employees in his firm filled out forms containing false information about Conn’s clients and Adkins signed nearly 250 without reviewing them. Prosecutor Dustin Davis said in court that Adkins signed some of the forms on a car’s hood while Conn’s employees waited.

Adkins argued improper testimony was allowed about how much money Social Security could’ve lost.

Feds continuing ginseng harvest ban in Daniel Boone Forest

WINCHESTER, Ky. (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service is continuing a ban on ginseng harvesting in the Daniel Boone National Forest in eastern Kentucky.

Federal officials say they issued the ban in 2016 to stop the decline of wild ginseng in the area. The service previously had issued permits for ginseng collectors. The root of the plant is touted as an herbal medicine for various ailments.

Federal officials say much of wild ginseng’s decline is attributed to illegal harvest methods. They say it is a problem throughout southern Appalachian states like West Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

The penalty for illegally removing wild ginseng from national forest lands includes a fine up to $5,000 or a 6-month sentence in federal prison, or both.

State GOP approves review of Attorney General’s office

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s Senate Republican Caucus has announced an election-year review of the Democratic attorney general’s office.

Republican Sen. Danny Carroll said the review will examine the contracting procedures of Attorney General Andy Beshear’s office. The report is due next summer, which will be the middle of the governor’s race. Beshear announced his campaign for governor last month.

Carroll said the review is not political. He said if Beshear has nothing to hide, he should cooperate with the review and show the public how transparent he is.

Beshear called the review “truly sad.” He said it continues Republican efforts to thwart his lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies. Beshear awarded contracts to four private law firms to help him sue those companies over the state’s opioid epidemic.

Voluntary ‘Ag Tag’ donations total $612,106

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner says the state’s farmers donated more than $612,000 in the past fiscal year to a program that helps support Kentucky 4-H, Kentucky FFA and the state Department of Agriculture.

Commissioner Ryan Quarles says the amount donated to the Ag Tag Program in the fiscal year that ended June 30 was the second-highest total in the program’s history.

Kentucky motorists buying or renewing farm vehicle license plates may make voluntary donations up to $10 apiece to the Ag Tag Fund. Voluntary donations are divided equally among Kentucky 4-H, Kentucky FFA and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. KDA uses its share for promotional programs.

Half of the 4-H and FFA funds return to the counties where the tags are purchased. Both organizations use the funds to support local programming, awards and scholarships.

Crews still working to save bourbon after warehouse collapse

BARDSTOWN, Ky. (AP) — The collapse of a Kentucky distillery’s warehouse last month has crews still cleaning up and trying to salvage roughly 18,000 barrels of aging bourbon.

News outlets reported Wednesday the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown has been working one barrel at a time to save the bourbon. Part of the warehouse fell in June and the rest collapsed in July.

A video by Barton safety director Bob Mahanna says the effort involves a crane grabbing barrels and an inspector examining each one. If a barrel cannot be repaired the whiskey is drained and held until it can be returned to a barrel.

Barton spokeswoman Amy Preske says they haven’t determined why the warehouse collapsed. The distillery hasn’t said how much bourbon will be recovered or what they’ll do with it.

Uber driver dies after fight with passenger

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Police say a Kentucky Uber driver who got into a fight with a passenger has died.

Louisville police spokesman Dwight Mitchell said officers responded to a report of a person down in front of a hotel on Saturday and arrived to find an Uber driver who had been beaten up. News outlets reported the man was taken to a hospital and died days later.

Mitchell said the passenger and the Uber driver got into a shouting match before the fight turned physical.

No charges have been filed. Police are conducting a death investigation and an autopsy is pending.

Uber spokeswoman Kayla Whaling said the company will support the police investigation in every way possible.

Louisville event to highlight hard of hearing, Deaf culture

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A daylong event highlighting hard of hearing and Deaf culture, art and language is set for next month in Kentucky’s largest city.

The event, called DeaFestival-Kentucky 2018, will be Sept. 1 at the Galt House in downtown Louisville.

Officials with the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing say the public is invited to attend the free event.

Commission officials say the festival will feature more than 50 visual and performing artists. They say the goal is to foster a better understanding of Deaf culture. Visitors also will be able to purchase fine art by deaf and hard of hearing visual artists.

The festival began in 1996 in Danville at the Kentucky School for the Deaf. It was held annually until 1998, when it became a biennial event.

Police recruit fired over inappropriate social media posts

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A police recruit in Kentucky has been fired over social media posts that used offensive slurs to refer to black and gay people.

Shively Police Department spokesman Lt. Col. Josh Myers tells news outlets that Trenton McDuffie’s employment ended Wednesday. Myers says McDuffie had been at the police academy since July and was employed by the Louisville suburb on a probationary status.

McDuffie’s posts on Twitter date back to 2016 and 2017. Myers says the “out of line” posts wouldn’t be tolerated. Myers says McDuffie admitted to making the posts, calling them a mistake.

Another department employee was punished last year for mocking the death of a woman killed at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. That officer, Morris Rinehardt, was suspended without pay for eight days.