Council seeks probe into football expenditures

Ralph B. Davis rdavis@civitasmedia.com

June 10, 2014

PRESTONSBURG — City councilmen called Monday night for an investigation into several city expenditures with the defunct East Kentucky Drillers football franchise, saying Mayor Jerry Fannin’s decision to spend thousands of dollars with the team appeared “questionable.”

Fannin, however, said he welcomed an examination and added that he would like to see it extend into other areas, as well.

Councilman B.D. Nunnery led the questioning, though he was joined at times by colleagues Harry Adams and Les Stapleton.

Nunnery noted the discovery of several purchases, most made in the same month, totalling $5,250. Those expenditures were made from various city accounts, including the general fund, fire department, 911, tourism, the Mountain Arts Center, utilities and a “parking fund.”

“The city of Prestonsburg paid the Drillers $5,250 … Isn’t that a for-profit company?” Nunnery asked.

Fannin said the expenditures were advertising purchases used to promote the city. He also noted that the Drillers frequently conducted anti-drug programs in area schools.

Several department heads in attendance confirmed the purchases were for advertising, but that did not end Nunnery’s questions.

“What did the ‘parking fund’ get out of it?” Nunnery asked. “Did we advertise that we write parking tickets?”

Nunnery also asked Fannin to explain other purchases, including $2,500 which he said Prestonsburg Senior Citizens paid to Jenny Wiley Theatre for apartments used to house Drillers players. He also questioned several gasoline purchases, which he said coincided in date and location with Drillers away games.

“It looks like we’re using city funds for a limited liability, for-profit company,” Nunnery said. “I want to know why … It looks bad.”

Fannin denied that the city paid for the Drillers’ gas purchases. He said he did not know about the senior citizens expenditure.

Adams took the line of questioning one step further, noting Fannin’s participation as a player in several Drillers games.

“I’ve got a bad problem that we paid $8,000 or $10,000 so our mayor could play football,” Adams said.

“That’s not what it’s about,” Fannin responded.

“That is exactly what it’s about,” Adams replied.

Adams then said he wanted the state auditor’s office to step in and examine the purchases, to see if there was any impropriety. Fannin responded that he thought that was a good idea, but said he wanted any examination to go even further. In particular, questioned city spending with Adams Auto Parts.

“That is owned by Frank Adams,” Adams replied. “I’m not even in the will yet.”

The council voted unanimously to ask for an audit of city spending. A second unanimous vote also requested that the city’s ethics board also review the matter.