Church controversy — (The Kentucky Post)

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The Kentucky Post

January 1, 1993

Author: KENTUCKY POST STAFF REPORT []

1992 — A YEAR OF HOPE, SCANDAL TAKING ANOTHER LOOK AT OUR TOP 10 STORIES

It was a year of scandal, a year of hope.

The careers of several top state legislators and lobbyists ended abruptly after they were caught in a web known as BOPTROT. A Newport mayor who fought to clean up the city’s sleazy image resigned after admitting that he had called adult-entertainment lines – and charged the calls to the city. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington encountered one controversy after another.

But among the tragedies were stories of faith and courage.

The Northern Kentucky economy wavered but never faltered, as the rest of the nation remained mired in a recession. At least four major companies announced they would move to Northern Kentucky, bringing with them hundreds of jobs.

Thousands of people descended upon a small Campbell County town in search of a miracle. And the Central Bridge came tumbling down in a spectacle that delighted the young and the old.

Here’s a look at the top Northern Kentucky stories of 1992:

BOPTROT scandal

A federal investigation into state government corruption dominated the headlines and threatened to become the commonwealth’s most infamous political scandal.

The two-year investigation, known as BOPTROT, has resulted in the indictments of 11 people, including legislators, former legislators and lobbyists. Prosecutors predict the probe could continue for two more years, with at least another 15 people charged.

House Speaker Don Blandford is among those accused of extortion, racketeering and giving false testimony to investigators. He has pleaded innocent.

Two Northern Kentuckians – former Reps. Bill McBee of Burlington and Clay Crupper of Dry Ridge – also have been charged. McBee, who recently acted as a lobbyist, was implicated as the central figure who solicited money from the Jockey Guild Inc. and then distributed part of it to other legislators. He has pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to commit extortion and one count of racketeering.

Crupper acknowledged that he accepted $400 and resigned his seat.

To date, the probe primarily has centered on payoffs aimed at helping Riverside Downs, a Henderson harness track, gain a competitive advantage in the simul- cast of horse races from other tracks.

Investigators have indicated BOPTROT may expand further, into the General Assembly’s handling of banking and health-care legislation.

The economy

The good news was that economic recovery got under way in 1992. The bad news was that it never did build a good head of steam.

Economic indicators showed Kentucky improving faster than the rest of the nation. In Northern Kentucky, the recovery was a little stronger than the rest of the state.

Delta Air Lines was among Northern Kentucky employers that cut some jobs, but new employers and strong existing employers helped keep the unemployment rate lower than the statewide average, and that was lower than the national jobless rate.

The region’s economic prospects were made brighter by new employers that brought additional jobs.

Fidelity Investments set a benchmark among new companies. The Boston-based company is the nation’s leading mutual-fund company and the second-largest discount broker. Construction has begun in Covington on a regional center for the company. Local and state officials have said Fidelity could employ up to 1,500 people.

General Cable Corp., a spinoff of Penn Central Corp., also decided to build a corporate headquarters and consolidate some of its operations in Highland Heights.

International Paper, with sales of almost $13 billion in 1991, chose RiverCenter in Covington as headquarters for its Distribution Businesses. Bruening Bearings, Willamette Industries and StarKist Foods also added their names to the list of new Northern Kentucky employers.

Part of the Northern Kentucky economic picture darkened when the Covington Landing entertainment complex hit rough water. Huntington Bank and Central Trust Bank filed for foreclosure in September seeking $5.7 million due on two loans.

The $14.5 million complex continues to operate after filing for bankruptcy in federal court. Creditors have agreed to a temporary plan for Covington Landing to continue paying interest on its loans while retaining money to operate the complex.Goetz resigns

From Washington, D.C., to Frankfort, Steve Goetz spent the past 15 years changing Newport’s image from sex shows to riverfront development.

Goetz, 44, Newport mayor for 8 1/2 years and a city commissioner for six years before that, was widely credited with improving the city’s sleazy image. But he resigned suddenly Aug. 17, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.

City officials soon revealed that police were investigating Goetz for improper phone calls made from city hall.

Two weeks after he resigned, Goetz publicly acknowledged that he had made almost $400 in calls to adult-entertainment lines between April and mid-June.

In November, a Campbell County grand jury indicted him for making the phone calls and for charging them to the city and to the personal credit card of City Attorney Mike Schulkens.

On Nov. 18, Goetz pleaded guilty to a felony, fraudulent use of a credit card and two misdemeanors – theft of a credit card and theft by unlawful taking under $100.

Judge William J. Wehr sentenced him to two years of probation.

Town awaits miracle

Cold Spring braced for a miracle this summer as thousands gathered at St. Joseph Church at midnight Aug. 31 to wait for the appearance of the Virgin Mary.

A Cincinnati woman who calls herself a “visionary” had predicted the apparition. The prediction threw the town of 2,800 into turmoil as city officials orchestrated elaborate crowd-control measures, fearing an influx of up to 20,000.

On the night of Aug. 31, between 5,000 and 7,000 people prayed, sang and knelt in the church parking lot. Another 1,000 were inside the church.

When midnight came, some said they saw flashing lights. Some claimed they saw a statue move or a figure in a pine tree. Others say the lights were flashes from television cameras.

Bishop William Hughes later declared that nothing miraculous had happened.

Clinton elected

Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton said the Bluegrass State was one of his keys to winning the 1992 presidential election.

He made numerous appearances in Kentucky throughout the campaign; enlisted the support of Gov. Brereton Jones and other key Democrats; and sent his wife, Hillary Clinton, and vice presidential nominee Al Gore to stump for him in Northern Kentucky.

Clinton also wooed the Northern Kentucky vote by making a Labor Day appearance in Cincinnati.

The result: He carried Kentucky by winning 45 percent of the popular vote. Republican President George Bush carried 41 percent, while independent candidate Ross Perot captured 14 percent.

Clinton failed, however, to win the three largest counties in

Northern Kentucky. Bush carried Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties by a margin of 14,000 votes – a testament to the conservative nature of the area.

Kentucky voters also approved major changes in statewide election law. The first change will be in the 1995 election, when candidates for governor and lieutenant governor will be required to run on the same ticket. The second change will allow governors and other statewide officers – beginning with the 1995 elections – to succeed themselves.

Church controversy

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington had a controversial year. One of its priests was charged with molesting students; a parish fought publicly with its pastor; the bishop was publicly criticized for saying a Mass to gays and lesbians; and a widely revered priest and social activist committed suicide.

The controversy started in March, when Bishop William Hughes attended the Third National Symposium of Lesbian and Gay People. He considered it a moral duty, since he was chairman of a committee of the National Council of Catholic Bishops, which developed the church’s first statement on AIDS.

But a conservative Catholic newspaper, the Wanderer, called for the bishop’s resignation, saying he was supporting an unholy lifestyle. Local clergy leaders praised Hughes’ actions, calling him compassionate.

In early November, the Rev. Tom Middendorf, 68, put a gun to his head and killed himself at his rural retreat. He had helped develop Marydale Retreat Center in Erlanger in the 1950s and more recently started Home- source, a housing program for the poor. He had been taking the drug Prozac for depression; opponents of the drug have linked it to suicidal tendencies.

The death shocked the community, especially in light of traditional Catholic teachings that at one time banned suicide victims from being buried in hallowed ground. Current church teachings do not include such a ban and urge compassion and forgiveness.

In mid-November, retired priest Earl Bierman, a widely known educator, was accused of sexually molesting male students over three decades. A former student filed a civil suit against Bierman and two Northern Kentucky priests whom he says concealed Bierman’s sexual misconduct. The suit also names the diocese and Bishop Hughes as defendants. Two other former students, including a former priest, also accused Bierman of sexually abusing them while they were students.

In December, Bishop Hughes appointed a mediator to help settle problems between parish members and the Rev. Joseph Brink, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Alexandria. Brink had dissolved the church’s school board, saying it was ineffective and possibly detrimental to the parish.Airport noise

Hundreds of residents mobilized to inspect plans to control jet noise at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration is reviewing a noise plan presented earlier this year by airport consultant Landrum & Brown.

In an effort to spread noise more evenly, the Kenton County Airport Board hired the aviation consultant to conduct the six-month noise study. The FAA must approve the plan before federal money can be spent to buy and soundproof homes south and west of the airport.

The plan will redistribute airplane noise to areas north, south and west of the airport.

The long-term plan includes the lengthening of the east-west runway to 10,000 feet to allow almost all night flights to fly west over Boone County, easing noise to the north, south and east. The westerly route would take airplanes over fewer homes, which the airport plans to buy.

The airport board approved the plan in October after several public hearings.Election reform

One of Northern Kentucky’s most successful politicians nearly lost his job in November – and that was after Republicans charged him with rigging his state senatorial district to ensure himself re-election.

Sen. Joe Meyer, a Covington Democrat, was the author of a redistricting plan that he said would help unite Northern Kentucky. Instead of dividing the area’s three Senate districts by county, the plan divided them by population density – into urban, suburban and rural districts across Kenton, Campbell, Boone and Gallatin counties.

When confronted with the plan – and with a House plan that also rearranged districts – area Republicans cried foul. They pointed out that the plans, drawn up by Democrats, coincidentally merged six Republican seats into three.

They focused their attacks on Meyer, who they said had drawn for himself a kingdom that would ensure his re-election. But Meyer barely survived the election. He lost his home county of Kenton but outpolled Republican opponent Dick Murgatroyd in Campbell County to give him another four-year term.Gerald Kaufman trial

On a cold, blustery morning in March 1991, Ft. Thomas police found the body of a woman on the rear floorboards of her Buick Skylark. Their subsequent charges that her estranged husband killed her set the stage for Northern Kentucky’s most watched trial in 1992.

For 2 1/2 weeks in October, people crowded into a small Campbell Circuit courtroom to see if Gerald Kaufman, a 52-year-old businessman, would be convicted of murder and face the prospect of life behind bars.

The charge divided the family and the community. But for the jury it was a simple question: Was Karen Kaufman murdered, or did she commit suicide?

Police, prosecutors, members of Mrs. Kaufman’s family and the couple’s two eldest daughters believed she was murdered. But defense attorneys Robert Carran and Phil Taliaferro presented an alternative theory: Mrs. Kaufman, succumbing to a lifelong history of depression, committed suicide.

In the end, the jury reached a definitive conclusion: Kaufman did not kill his wife.Central Bridge falls

The best show of the year was actually a mini-series that drew thousands of spectators to the Newport riverfront to watch the Central Bridge come tumbling down.

Six explosions, from March 1 to May 15, knocked the 100-year-old bridge off its piers. Workmen then spent weeks knocking down the old piers with wrecking balls, explosives and jackhammers.

Construction has begun on a new $28.5 million four-lane span from Newport to Cincinnati, to be completed in 1995.
Caption:
BOPTROT indictments included former state Rep. Bill McBee. The financial difficulties of Covington Landing also will remain news in 1993, and explosions that took down Central Bridge made way for a new span.

Prayerful visits to a grotto with a statue of Mary were made by many of those who came seeking a vision at St. Joseph Church in Cold Spring.

Steve Goetz, former Newport mayor, is accompanied by his wife, Nancy, for sentencing in mid-December after he pleaded guilty to felony charges.

Record Number:  KNP010100011310130