In an article in the March 27 edition of the Charleston Gazette, it was alleged the Mingo County Commisson bought tickets to University of Kentucky athletic events for Mingo Circuit Court Judge Michael Thormsbury.
The newspaper article quotes Mingo Sheriff Lonnie Hannah, who also serves as Mingo County treasurer, as questioning the purchase of the tickets. However, Hannah told the Daily News that, while he does have reservations as to the educational value of a trip to a college football game, he did not tell the Gazette the tickets were for Judge Thornsbury.
The county did approve $1,860 to purchase 60 tickets for students to attend a UK football game.
“I told that reporter I had questions about the purchase,” Hannah said. “I told him I talked to Michael Sparks, Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney, about it at the time. I never mentioned Judge Thornsbury.”
Hannah went on to say he felt there were other desitnations Upward Bound students could visit which would be more beneficial, such as the Clay Center or the Renaissance Center.
Hannah said perhaps the reporter had assumed he meant Judge Michael Thornsbury when he mentioned Michael Sparks. He explained he had not discussed either the UK tickets or the Upward Bound program with Judge Thornsbury.
The tickets were purchased in July 2009. Records show the purchase was approved by the County Commission and signed by Hannah, County Clerk Jim Hatfield and Commission President John Mark Hubbard.
Upward Bound provides support to participants in their preparation for college entrance. The program provides opportunities for high school students to succeed in their precollege performance and ultimately in their higher education pursuits.
The Mingo County Commission serves as a fiduciary agent for the Mingo chapter of Upward Bound. Money for the program comes from the U.S. Department of Education. The county’s involvement is to oversee the program, including any expenditures. Money that is approved by MCC is granted to Upward Bound, and is reimbursed to the county by the federal government.
Upward Bound serves high school students from low-income families as well as students from families in which neither parent holds a bachelor’s degree.
The goal of Upward Bound is to increase the rate at which participants complete secondary education and enroll in and graduate from institutions of postsecondary education. Toward that end the program takes students on trips to college campuses and events.
“The Mingo Upward Bound chapter has made trips to several colleges,” Hubbard told the Daily News. “The program does a great deal of good for students who may otherwise not have been aware of opportunites available to them.
“These young people have been given the opportunity to tour Marshall and WVU as well as UK,” Hubbard continued. “Without Upward Bound, these Mingo County students would not have been able to participate in a college setting.”
He went on to say he was proud of the county’s participation in the program.
“All expenditures that go through Upward Bound are approved by federal audits that meet or exceed requirements. I am proud Mingo County is stepping to the forefront to assist these worthy students,” he said.
A statement from Christopher Tate, management and program analyst with the U.S. Department of Education, confirms an audit of the program showed the finances of Mingo County Upward Bound to be well documented by Leigh Ann Ray, grant coordinator for the Commission and commission advisor for Upward Bound.
“The financial aspects of the projects are well managed,” the audit concluded. “Ms. Ray is conscientious of costs and ensuring allowability.”