A West Kentucky lawmaker is accused of using company money to inappropriately fund campaign activities and line his pockets with taxpayer dollars.
A complaint filed this week by shareholders of Liberty Rehabilitation in Hopkins County Circuit Court alleges that Rep. Ben Waide used over $30,000 company funds to bankroll various campaign activities, including using nearly $5,000 to purchase campaign advertisements in the Madisonville Messenger newspaper.
Liberty Rehabilitation shareholders Lawrence Holmes and Jason Myers also allege that Waide, a Republican from Madisonville who serves as the company’s president, charged legislative travel expenses to a company account while claiming taxpayer-subsidized travel reimbursements for himself, as well as what the plaintiff’s claims were other unauthorized expenditures.
According to the suit, “while the Kentucky legislature was in session, Waide would travel to and from Frankfort, Kentucky, to fulfill his legislative duties. Frequently while in session Waide would charge Liberty Rehabilitation for gas, food, and hotels. The same charges to Liberty Rehabilitation were frequently claimed by Waide and reimbursed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky to Waide. Upon information and belief, Waide never reimbursed Liberty Rehabilitation for those expenses.”
“Essentially,” the suit continues, “Waide was having Liberty Rehabilitation pay for his expenses and pocketing his legislative reimbursement.”
The suit also accuses Waide of borrowing over $20,000 from the company to benefit Southern Migraine, a company Waide founded in July, 2012 and dissolved on Sept. 20, 2013. The plaintiffs allege they did not consent to Waide’s use of money for this purpose.
Waide’s attorney, Hopkins County Attorney Todd P’Pool, denies the claims. He says that the lawsuit is politically motivated, and that the expenses were lawfully paid under Waide’s personal account.
P’Pool added that Waide offered Holmes and Myers an undisclosed amount of money to settle the issue for “more than they will able to prove at trial,” he said.
P’Pool says he is representing Waide privately, and not in his official capacity as Hopkins County Attorney.
Myers, who is one of Liberty’s founding partners, donated $750 to Waide’s 2010 election campaign, records show.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Madisonville Attorney John Whitfield, tells Kentucky Public Radio that evidence included in the complaint reveals expenditures made by a credit card in Waide’s name that were billed to Liberty.
“He was using corporate funds, Liberty funds, to finance his own campaign for office,” Whitfield said. “And that’s strictly prohibited under Kentucky law.”
According to the lawsuit, Waide is accused of violating two sections of Kentucky campaign finance law, which are class D felonies prohibiting corporations from directly funding political campaign activities and could result in fines upwards of tens of thousands of dollars.
The plaintiffs are seeking a trial by jury, and will ask for compensatory damages and attorney’s fees. The suit also requests that the court appoint a third party to oversee the company’s finances, and seeks to bar Waide from further control of the company’s funds.
Waide is planning to run for Hopkins County Judge Executive.