Friday, December 01, 2000

State footed Henry's bill at hotel for pageant stays

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Taxpayers' money paid for Lt. Gov. Steve Henry to spend four nights in a Lexington hotel during two Miss Kentucky pageant events, a newspaper reported Thursday.

        The hotel was 30 miles from his state-owned mansion in Frankfort.

        Mr. Henry's office said Wednesday that Mr. Henry thought the three-night stay in October 1999 was being paid by the Miss Kentucky Scholarship Organization, the official name of the pageant, and that a one-night stay earlier this year was official state business.

        Records from the Finance and Administration Cabinet show that Mr. Henry has not reimbursed the state for the trips, the Courier-Journal reported.

        Mr. Henry married former Miss America and Miss Kentucky Heather French in October. She was the reigning Miss America at the time of both trips.

        Bill Riggs, Mr. Henry's chief of staff, said Wednesday night that Mr. Henry had no immediate comment.

        Mr. Henry's office and personal finances have come under scrutiny since the wedding in Louisville. State Auditor Ed Hatchett announced Nov. 15 that he was looking into allegations that state resources had been improperly used to plan and stage events surrounding the wedding.

        Following that announcement, the Henrys reimbursed the state $4,372 to cover travel expenses from trips to the Democratic National Convention and the Miss America Pageant, long-distance phone bills and other costs.

        Mr. Henry has said the probe and news media questions did not figure into his decision to pay the bills. He has said that some of the checks had been written more than a month ago and that he is disputing some of the financial obligations against him.

        Mr. Henry also is disputing one of his stays at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Lexington, saying he thought the Miss Kentucky organization was going to pay.

        According to his office, Mr. Henry began a three-night stay at the Radisson on Oct. 14, 1999. Ann Elizabeth Delahanty, Mr. Henry's spokeswoman, said Mr. Henry was the honorary chairman of Homecoming 2000, an arm of the Miss Kentucky organization.

        The bill totaled $349.57 for three nights and breakfast on the morning Mr. Henry checked out. Ms. Delahanty said the bill was inadvertently charged to his state police security officer. She said Homecoming 2000 is trying to get the billing corrected.

        The other trip was April 15, when Mr. Henry checked into the Radisson again for another Miss Kentucky event — to present honorary Kentucky Colonels certificates at the Miss Kentucky Gala. Ms. Delahanty said it was official business and something Mr. Henry has done in the past.


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