Saturday, December 28, 2002

State-funded group criticized for irregularities

The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - A state-funded corporation that promotes Kentucky-made wood products paid $145,000 to a politically connected consulting firm over about a year without a written contract or documentation of the firm's services.

The Kentucky Wood Products Competitiveness Corp. paid Goldsmith Ratcliff Shoop LLC - a consulting and lobbying firm with ties to Gov. Paul Patton - a retainer of $10,000 a month between November 2000 and January, the Courier-Journal reported Friday.

The arrangement was made even though the corporation had a contract with another consulting firm, the Commonwealth Group of Louisville, which was on a $3,500-a-month retainer.

Directors of the corporation asked the firm in August to document its work but were never provided documentation. The corporation formally ended the relationship in the fall.

Mark Kaser, former executive director of the corporation who had hired Goldsmith Ratcliff Shoop, said the firm performed significant work preparing applications for grants and handling public relations for some of the corporation's business ventures.

He said there was no written contract "because we did it on a month-by-month basis. I'm not sure why there wasn't. There should have been."

He said the corporation wanted to seek grants more aggressively and that he needed such expertise.

Frank Shoop, a partner in Goldsmith Ratcliff Shoop, is finance chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party and was chief fund-raiser for Mr. Patton's gubernatorial campaigns.

He referred questions to partner Bennet Ratcliff.

"There was business development and communications work," Mr. Ratcliff said. "There was marketing and marketing strategy. ... And we were told that our compensation was provided from nongovernment funds."

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