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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Unbridled Harassment. Special Post by Don McNay

Unbridled Harassment

They like to get you in a compromising position
They like to get you there and smile in your face
They think, they’re so cute when they got you in that condition
Well I think, it’s a total disgrace.”

-John Mellencamp (The Authority Song)

On July 25, 2005, I wrote a column criticizing Governor Ernie Fletcher and the Kentucky Labor Department.

On July 26, 2005 a Compliance Officer from the Kentucky Labor Department showed up at my business.

On September 21, 2004, I wrote a column criticizing Governor Ernie Fletcher and his plan to change the health insurance plan for state teachers.

On September 22, 2004, a Compliance Officer from the Kentucky Department of Insurance showed up at my business.

I am starting to detect a pattern.

It could be a coincidence. But I’ve been in business for 24 years and don’t remember the Kentucky Labor Department visiting me before.

It could be that the exact moment I was thinking about the Labor Department, they were thinking about me.

Or it could be someone wanting to tell me that state government has the power to make my life miserable.

Elected officials are servants of the people, not their masters. It is a lesson we learned in civics class but one that many elected officials forgot.

Journalists also have a responsibility to not use their power to exact a personal vendetta.

A few months ago, a small town editor wrote a column complaining how he ordered diet Mountain Dew and got a regular Mountain Dew instead.

He had privileges not available to the average citizen and abused them.

Since government touches every aspect of our lives, everyone is vulnerable to a vindictive public official.

I had an employee who irritated his small county sheriff. He was pulled over for imaginary traffic violations 14 times in one year. He took the only option available to him, he moved.

I don’t plan on moving. My option is to put my story “out on the street” and see if others draw the same conclusions that I do.

On July 25, I wrote a column called “Unbridled Etiquette” that made fun of Governor Fletcher and the fact that his Labor Department hired a consultant to teach people manners and to bathe daily.

I posted it on my web site and sent it to my email list. I am sure that the Labor Department officials saw a column that made their Department look silly and wasteful.

On July 26, a Compliance Officer from the Department of Labor visited my place of business before the office opened at 9 a.m. He left a card in the door and left a message on my personal voice mail to call him.

He left a polite and friendly message identifying himself as being from the Labor Department and that he needed some documentation from my office.

I was waiting to go to the dentist and livid when I got a voice message from the same department I had written about the previous day.

He wanted to make sure we had workers compensation coverage. It was an inquiry that could have been made by call or letter instead of a surprise visit.

I told him it was highly unusual that a Compliance Officer would visit my business the day after I wrote about his Department. He said “someone” had asked him to look into it on Friday.

If he is correct, the situation may be that the Labor Cabinet happened to pick the day I wrote about them to give me their only visit in 24 years.

A strange and weird accident.

I’d feel better about it being an accident if it were the first time a Compliance Officer visited the day after a column. It was the second.

On September 21, I posted a column called “Living on a Prayer” that was critical of the health insurance plan that Governor Fletcher proposed for teachers.

On September 22, my office received a visit from a Compliance Officer from the Licensing Division of the Kentucky Department of Insurance.

The Insurance licensing people can take away my ability to earn a living. I take them very seriously but it is also easy to check all our licenses online.

I wondered then about the nature, timing and intent of the visit. I wonder a lot more now.

There will be another time when Governor Fletcher or someone in Kentucky state government inspires me to write about something I think is wrong.

When that happens, I wonder to how long it will be before a government official comes to visit me.

It could be someone from the Revenue Cabinet wanting to audit all tax returns or a police officer accusing me of some perceived crime. It could someone in the Insurance Department wanting to go through my records or it could be the Weights and Measures Department wanting to check out the scale I use for Don’s Fat Guy’s Club.

A journalist’s job is to present the facts and let the public decide. That is what I am doing here.

And will do again.

Don McNay is President of McNay Settlement Group, Inc. and will keep writing about what he believes in, no matter how many Compliance Officers come to visit. You can write to him at and read other things he has written at