Wednesday October 23, 2019
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Attorney General Andy Beshear said his office has completed a review of publicly available data and determined that the governor’s Labor Cabinet may have failed to secure a single bond for any mining company operating in the state. Beshear’s review indicates that as many as 30 mining companies should have bonds on file, without which nearly 1,000 mining employees are at risk.

In a five-page report, Beshear said the Labor Cabinet has not only failed to enforce a state law that aims to protect four weeks of employee pay if their company shuts down, they actively tried to repeal it. The law (KRS 337.200) applies to certain businesses, including mining companies who have done business in the state for fewer than five consecutive years.

Beshear began his review following media reports that the cabinet failed to require the now bankrupt Blackjewel in Harlan County to post a bond. After the mine closed July 1, miners’ paychecks bounced and they have not since been paid. Beshear wanted to find out if other miners face the same risk.

“In response to Blackjewel’s closing, the Labor Cabinet claimed ‘there is no mechanism in law for them to figure out when a new company has opened in the state that is supposed to post a bond,’ but my office was able to determine this with publicly available information within a few days,” Beshear said. “The Labor Cabinet has an absolute duty to enforce the law and has utterly failed to do so. They must begin enforcing these bonds to assure no one ever goes through what the Blackjewel miners are going through.”

Beshear’s review included visiting the Energy and Environment Cabinet’s (EEC) website to study a publicly available list of mining licenses and the Secretary of State’s website to view each licensee’s business filing. Beshear’s office then compiled a list of licensed mining companies the EEC has authorized to operate in the state, and which have been doing so for fewer than five consecutive years.

Monday, Aug. 26, after a delay, Beshear received a response to his open records request for a copy of any bonds on file at the Labor Cabinet. Beshear’s office quickly concluded that the cabinet failed to secure any of the required bonds from mining companies.

The office also used the EEC Division of Mine Safety 2018 Annual Report to determine how many miners may be working at the mines operated by the licensees who should have been on file with the cabinet.

Beshear’s letter says the cabinet had various accessible ways to track and enforce the law, including working with other agencies and utilizing the cabinet’s claim to broad subpoena powers to investigate labor law violations.

Instead of enforcing the law, however, the Labor Cabinet took time to unsuccessfully attempt to repeal it, Beshear said.

At the March 1, 2018, meeting of the House Standing Committee on Economic Development and Workforce Investment cabinet officials testified in support of repealing the bond requirements. The bill passed committee, but did not receive a vote on the floor of the Kentucky House of Representatives.

“While the Labor Cabinet may prefer that these laws be repealed, it has a duty to enforce them while they remain on the books,” Beshear said. “The cabinet should use the many public resources we have identified to do so.”

Since Beshear learned of the troubling complaints surrounding the closing of the Blackjewel mine, he has taken action. Beshear previously instructed his office to use all of its powers and resources to seek answers for those who have been harmed.

Beshear has dedicated an investigator to look into complaints of clawed-back paychecks and concerns related to child support deductions and has reached out to local county attorneys on these same child support issues. Devoted mediators from Beshear’s office are available to help employees mitigate debts owed to individuals or businesses as a result of bounced paychecks.

Beshear also joined with Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring to ask for the immediate payment of all wages owed to Blackjewel employees. In their joint request to the Office of the United States Trustee July 16, the attorneys general cite the serious and ongoing financial harm experienced by miners in Kentucky and Virginia following Blackjewel’s haphazard bankruptcy.

Beshear asks anyone with complaints or information related to Blackjewel’s bankruptcy to contact his office at 502-696-5300 and ask to speak with Jan Velez. Beshear’s office will track and route each caller to the appropriate contact.

Gov. Matt Bevin released the following statement regarding the Kentucky Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling today that Attorney General Andy Beshear broke the law:

“The Supreme Court today unanimously held that Andy Beshear broke the law in awarding outrageous, uncapped state legal contracts to his friends and campaign donors. As Attorney General, Andy Beshear claimed that he is above the law and attempted to put his campaign donors ahead of the interest of Kentuckians in ongoing cases with opioid manufacturers. If allowed to continue, that practice could take millions of dollars away from Kentuckians who need it most and put it in the pockets of Andy’s largest campaign contributors. With today’s ruling, Andy Beshear can no longer engage in this type of soft corruption and will be subject to the same procurement laws and financial oversight as other state agencies. If Andy Beshear feels that he and his office are not competent to fight against the opioid manufacturers, he can still hire outside counsel, but he must do it legally.”

To view today’s 7-0 ruling by the Kentucky Supreme Court, click here.

Attorney General Andy Beshear announced today that a Fayette circuit judge has agreed to unseal court documents that reveal data on how one opioid maker accounted for the majority of opioids in grams sold in Kentucky from 2006 to 2014.

The new information allows Kentuckians to see how Pennsylvania-based pharmaceutical manufacturer Teva persuaded physicians to prescribe its drugs, Actiq and Fentora, to treat chronic pain despite the drugs being approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) only for breakthrough pain in cancer patients.

Beshear said during eight years, Teva sold 28% of the total opioid grams in Kentucky, and over six years, sales representatives for Fentora visited and/or called Kentucky healthcare providers more than 3,000 times. Only about 150 of these visits were to actual cancer doctors.

“The actions by Teva directly contributed to the state’s addiction outbreak,” Beshear said. “In asking that these documents be unsealed, I wanted to make sure Kentuckians are able to see just how far this opioid manufacturer went to maximize its profits while preying on our loved ones.”

Previously redacted information in the complaint now available after Beshear’s motion includes:

  • Teva internally tracked its sales representatives to ensure that prescribers absorbed their messages.
  • In 2004, the FDA met with Teva over concerns of promoting its drug Actiq for off-label use. According to records of the meeting, the FDA told Teva “off-label promotion is illegal, with a drug with a risk profile like Actiq, raises significant public health concerns.”
  • Teva targeted non-oncologists in order to boost its sales of Actiq and Fentora. Teva developed a research and publication plan to target doctors outside of the cancer-treating population. “This included focused promotional and educational efforts directed toward pain specialists in order to increase their prescribing of Actiq and Fentora.”

Beshear’s office filed a lawsuit against Teva in October 2018 for deceptively marketing its fentanyl-based drugs across the Commonwealth. At the time, Beshear’s office had access to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) database, but was required to protect the information until that data was released in July as part of a federal opioid case in Ohio.

The DEA database – Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS) – tracked about 380 million opioid pill transactions between 2006 and 2012 in the U.S. According to the data, companies flooded Kentucky with more than 1.9 billion pills over a six-year period and Teva manufactured 690 million pills making it one of the top six manufacturers during that time.

Once the database was opened, Beshear’s office requested that the DEA consent to disclosing the information, to which it had no objection, and filed a motion in Fayette Circuit Court.

Beshear has also filed a motion to unseal redacted DEA data in the Mallinckrodt lawsuit, originally filed in July 2018 for allegations that the St. Louis pharmaceutical manufacturer reaped huge profits and falsely claimed its opioids could be taken in higher doses without disclosing the greater risk for addiction.

Last month, Beshear’s office won another fight in Kentucky’s battle with opioid companies by defeating the eighth straight motion to dismiss by an opioid manufacturer or distributor in Kentucky courts.

Beshear’s office transferred $1.5 million of opioid settlement funds to battle Kentucky’s drug epidemic this year adding needed resources for law enforcement and drug treatment. Starting the first statewide opioid disposal program, Beshear’s partnerships have helped communities eliminate more than 2.2 million opioids from Kentucky households.

To date, Beshear has sued nine opioid pharmaceutical and/or distributors, making him the most aggressive attorney general in the nation. Kentuckians can follow the progress of all his opioid cases here.

Attorney General Andy Beshear announced today that his office is doubling down on recent, successful efforts with phone companies to stop scam calls by urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to compel more phone companies to join the fight.

Beshear joined a coalition of 51 attorneys general in sending comments to the FCC in support of requiring voice service providers to implement a caller ID authentication framework if they fail to implement the framework voluntarily by the end of 2019 and to provide free, default call-blocking programs to customers.

The comments follow a breakthrough announcement from Beshear, a bipartisan public-private coalition of 51 attorneys general and 12 phone companies last week who reached an agreement to work together to stop illegal and invasive scam calls.

“Working to stop illegal scam calls is a top priority for my office,” Beshear said. “To make sure every Kentuckian is protected, I want to see every phone service provider offer free call-blocking services and implement technology that can block scam calls. If companies won’t voluntarily provide these crucial services, they should be required to.”

In their comments to the FCC, the coalition of attorneys general states that phone service providers should be required to:

  • Offer free, automatic call-blocking services to all customers. The call-blocking services should be based on reasonable analytics and should not block important calls, including emergency alerts or automated calls that customers have signed up for, like medical reminders or school notifications.
  • Monitor network traffic to identify patterns consistent with scam calls and take action to cut off the calls or notify law enforcement.
  • Implement caller ID call authentication technology, which will help ensure that telephone calls are originating from secure, verified numbers, not spoofed sources. The coalition supports the FCC’s proposal to take regulatory action against telecom companies that do not comply with this technology.
  • Develop caller ID authentication to prevent robocalls to landline telephones. This is particularly urgent because the people defrauded by scam calls are often elderly Kentuckians who primarily use landline technology.

Attorneys general from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. have joined Beshear in signing these comments.

Since taking office, Beshear has worked on the state and federal level to encourage the implementation of new solutions to help stop scam calls.

Last year, Beshear urged the FCC to adopt rules that allow phone companies to use new technology to block illegal robocalls. In June, the FCC voted unanimously to let phone companies join the fight. Before this change, companies were required by law to complete known scam calls and now they can legally block them before they ever reach your phone.

Beshear has long supported the FCC’s actions to encourage and require service providers to implement a caller ID authentication framework. Some carriers are already helping by identifying a call as “scam likely” or “scam call.”

Earlier this year, Beshear’s office was also part of a national sweep with the Federal Trade Commission and other states that cracked down on nearly 100 illegal call operations. These operations were responsible for more than a billion illegal scam calls.

Kentuckians wanting to block scam calls to their phone should contact their phone carrier or internet service provider to ask about call-blocking technology, which can help stop many scam calls.

Kentuckians can avoid falling victim to scams by signing up to receive new and trending scam alerts from the Office of the Attorney General by texting the words KYOAG SCAM to GOV-311 or visiting ag.ky.gov/scams.

Beshear said Kentuckians should report scams to his office via an online complaint form or by calling 888-432-9257.

Following reports from Kentucky teachers in Franklin, Jefferson and Whitley counties, Attorney General Andy Beshear issued a scam alert to warn of a new scam targeting Kentucky school systems and teachers.

Beshear said his office has recently received multiple reports of a “Deputy Hart” calling schools asking to speak with a specific teacher who allegedly has an outstanding warrant or missed jury duty. School officials have been threatened with “obstruction charges” if the scammer is not given information or allowed to speak with the teacher. Once on the phone with the victim, the scammer requests payment via gift cards to resolve the legal matter and avoid arrest.

“While this scam is similar to the widespread jury duty scam, now there is a troubling new twist that indicates scammers are targeting teachers through social media,” Beshear said. “It is despicable that at a time when our teachers are focused on returning to their classrooms to educate children they are being targeted by scammers. I want to make sure every teacher is aware of this scam and takes steps to protect their information online.”

Reports indicate that the scam call is spoofed appearing to be from a local area code and one victim said the scammer pressured her to purchase $2,500 in gift cards, but ultimately she did not fall victim.

Beshear’s office has been in contact with each school district, local officials and the Department of Education and is asking teachers and school district employees to follow these tips to avoid falling victim to the scam:

  • Change your privacy settings – Be aware that con artists may use the information that is publicly available on social media against you. Consider adjusting your privacy settings to protect key information about you and your family.
  • Verify the call – A scammer may call from a spoofed phone number and pretend to have information like badge numbers, names of actual law enforcement officials, courthouse addresses and phone numbers. Never trust the caller and always verify information independently before making a payment.
  • Never pay over the phone using gift cards or reloadable credit cards – Scammers typically use gift cards and reloadable cards as their preferred method of payment because they are almost impossible to track and recover. Know that legitimate local authorities will not ask you to pay using these methods.

One of Beshear’s top priorities is to protect Kentucky consumers, especially senior citizens from scams, abuse and exploitation.

Since taking office, Beshear has repeatedly warned of jury duty and similar warrant scams. Since the beginning of 2019, the office has already received 23 reports of these scams in Breckinridge, Campbell, Fayette, Hardin, Henderson, Jefferson, Kenton, Ohio, Owen and Shelby counties, with losses totaling nearly $2,000.

Beshear’s office caught and convicted a Florida man posing as a Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy who was ordered to pay thousands of dollars to the two victims.

To report a scam contact the Office of the Attorney General at 888-432-9257 and file a complaint online. Kentuckians are urged to stay up to date on new and trending scams by signing up for Scam Alerts. To enroll text the words KYOAG Scam to GOV311 (468311), or enroll online at ag.ky.gov/scams and select text message or email alert.

A new training effort aimed at helping hospital employees provide victim-centered care to survivors of sexual assault was launched yesterday by Attorney General Andy Beshear, the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs (KASAP) and the Kentucky Hospital Association.

The new one-hour training video is for emergency room staff and hospital employees who respond to victims of sexual assault. The training includes an overview of survivors’ rights, the role of rape crisis advocates, legal requirements for hospitals under the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) Act and Kentucky law and dos and don’ts for conducting an exam in a victim-centered manner, which seeks to minimize retraumatization associated with the criminal justice process.

“We want to ensure that when survivors come forward to seek a sexual assault exam, they receive a trauma-informed, victim-centered response, which we know is a critical first step along a survivor’s path to healing and justice,” Beshear said. “The Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs and the Kentucky Hospital Association have been tremendous partners in our collaborative effort to enhance victim services in Kentucky.”

It is estimated that one in two women and one in 16 men in Kentucky will experience sexual violence. In June 2018, Beshear announced his office wanted to better serve victims and provided KASAP with $30,000 in drug settlement funds to create and administer a statewide training program to fill gaps in the state’s SAFE kit response.

Eileen Recktenwald, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs said, “Undergoing a sexual assault forensic exam can be daunting and painful, but it can also help survivors who are just beginning a long journey of healing. All victims deserve swift, compassionate, trauma-informed care when they walk into an emergency department in the aftermath of a sexual assault. We hope this video, produced in consultation with doctors and nurses, helps health care professionals understand their legal responsibilities and provide high quality, victim-centered care.”

According to Recktenwald, while the regional rape crisis centers currently provide certification training for sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE), the new training will inform a broader scope of hospital employees across all hospitals, rural and urban.

The SAFE Act of 2016 ensures the submission of all SAFE kits, requires police receive training to conduct victim-centered sexual assault investigations and sets timelines for testing kits.

Kentucky law also requires all hospitals that offer emergency services to provide a free sexual assault forensic exam to all victims and contact a local rape crisis center to provide advocacy. Hospitals must contact law enforcement to collect reported SAFE kits when a victim consents, and preserve all kits not reported to law enforcement for one year. Hospitals can also take steps to achieve a “SANE ready” designation, which are facilities that establish a readiness to provide constant response for sexual assault victims.

Donna Meador, director of quality and patient safety with the Kentucky Hospital Association said, “Our Kentucky hospitals demonstrate strong commitment to high quality and safe care, serving their communities with open doors all day, every day. The Kentucky Hospital Association is pleased to support this video as another educational resource for hospitals to use as they provide competent and compassionate care for victims of sexual assault.”

As part of Beshear’s work to support victims of sexual assault, his Office of Victims Advocacy created a first-of-its-kind Survivors Council in 2017 to give survivors a voice in Frankfort and to assist the office with victim issues and policies.

Hilary B. Sykes, current Survivors Council member said, “Hospitals play a vital role in survivors seeking justice. When hospitals know the rights of survivors, and how to perform a SAFE exam, it shows and the victim can feel it. You can make all the difference in how a survivor heals emotionally, physically and mentally. You hold the key for people to make it through this and feel like they have a chance at survival.”

Survivors Council Co-Chair, LaShana Harris said, “Hospitals are vital in the continuum of care for sexual assault survivors. An emergency room that has victim-centered services has a tremendous impact on the healing journey.”

Since taking office, Beshear’s Office of Victim Advocacy and his Department of Criminal Investigations have worked on many fronts with partners like KASAP and its 13 rape crisis centers, the Kentucky State Police (KSP) and local law enforcement and prosecutors to implement a victim-centered approach in Kentucky and seek justice for victims.

During his first year as attorney general, Beshear provided $4.5 million in settlement money to lawmakers to fund requested KSP crime lab upgrades and an additional $1 million from the settlement to aid law enforcement and prosecutors in conducting victim-centered investigations and prosecuting sexual assault offenders. In 2016, his office also hosted the first SAFE Summit and developed a Sexual Assault Law Enforcement Toolkit and SAFE Act Guide to help law enforcement address SAFE kit backlog investigations and prosecutions.

In 2017, Beshear transferred $45,000 of interest accumulated from the settlement to outsource more Sexual Assault Kits for testing and assist the KSP Crime Lab.

In 2018, Beshear established a sexual assault cold case unit from a three-year, nearly $3 million U.S Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance grant. The unit assists on cold sexual assault cases at every level with a victim advocate, investigator, prosecutor and coordinator.

Beshear’s office, local law enforcement and local prosecutors have now secured 10 statewide indictments linked to the SAFE kit backlog.

Kentucky is now only one of the few states that has tested every backlogged SAFE kit.

Following the recent devastating pipeline explosion that took the life of one Kentuckian in Lincoln County, Attorney General Andy Beshear wants greater scrutiny of the planned Louisville Gas and Electric Company (LG&E) Bullitt County Natural Gas Transmission Pipeline Project.

Beshear announced today that his Office of Rate Intervention filed a motion to intervene and expand the scope of a complaint case before the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) that Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest brought against LG&E over concerns surrounding its Bullitt County natural gas pipeline.

Intervening on behalf of Kentuckians, Beshear says the PSC should expand the matter to ensure the pipeline project meets safety, legal and regulatory compliance requirements, and address the tactics used and costs projected to secure and complete the pipeline.

“Given the recent tragedy in Lincoln County, I believe we must apply greater scrutiny to every pipeline project being proposed and constructed in our state,” Beshear said. “Kentuckians deserve to know that pipelines running across their property comply with the law and are as safe as possible.”

Beshear’s office noted recent decisions by the PSC concerning LG&E’s pipelines and safety practices, reminding the PSC of its “jurisdiction to regulate the safety of natural gas facilities in Kentucky.” The pipeline in Lincoln County was a large multi-state pipeline, and thus under federal jurisdiction. The Bullitt County pipeline, which will operate as part of LG&E’s transmission and distribution system, is entirely within the border of Kentucky and subject to PSC jurisdiction.

Beshear’s office is also concerned about complaints as to alleged tactics used to acquire the land for the pipeline. The complaint notes comments and statements made by the company that show “LG&E’s inappropriate use of its monopoly status to pressure” the remaining property owners to grant easements and right-of-ways, while threatening condemnation of their property.

Beshear’s office also notes that there is no evidence that the PSC has subsequently reviewed the numerous environmental permits LG&E is required to obtain for the project, and which the PSC required LG&E to file with it after receipt.

As the watchdog for consumers in matters relating to natural gas, water, sewer, electric and landline telephone rates, Beshear’s office further points out in its motions that the pipeline’s increasing cost warrants an expanded inquiry.

Beshear said the cost of the pipeline has increased nearly 50% in just two years and is currently estimated to cost $38.7 million.

The next steps in the case are determined by the PSC.

Under Kentucky law, Beshear’s office is responsible for representing the interests of Kentucky consumers before quasi-judicial and governmental ratemaking agencies. Over the past three and a half years, Beshear’s rate intervention team has helped Kentucky families avoid approximately $1.6 billion in proposed utility rate increases.

Over the past year alone, the office has taken on an unprecedented number of cases saving families in approximately 90 counties more than $113 million a year.

This spring, Beshear’s office also filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Kentucky Supreme Court in support of low-income advocates having the ability to participate in utility rate cases. For nearly two decades, low-income advocates were granted participation in LG&E or KU rate cases before the PSC denied them earlier this year.

“If our families are being asked to pay more or are directly impacted by the actions of investor-owned utilities, I want to ensure their voices are heard,” Beshear said.

Beshear urges Kentuckians needing to file a utility complaint to do so by completing his office’s online form.

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