FRANKFORT – (KT) Just one day after reports of another security breach in the state’s unemployment insurance program, the former executive director of the Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance testified under oath before members of the Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development and Workforce Investment (EDWI).
“I want to stress that this is a fact-finding mission and anyone who tells you it is about politics hasn’t talked to any of the thousands of Kentuckians who have gone months without benefits,” EDWI Committee Chair Russell Webber (R-Shepherdsville) said. “They haven’t walked down the line of hundreds of men and women who traveled to Frankfort to stand in the hot sun for hours to have their claim resolved. We were finalizing this agenda yesterday when news broke that another breach occurred this week, driving home the fact that problems still exist even though were told they have been fixed.”
McNamara was offered the position in Unemployment Insurance by Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman in December of 2019 and terminated without cause on May 5 after raising concerns about a variety of issues within the Unemployment Insurance Program.
McNamara began by describing a lack of communications and planning within the administration that led to poor morale and a sense that state employees working in unemployment insurance were at fault for the massive number of unprocessed and unpaid claims.
“There was a lack of clear guidance from above that led to ad hoc measures below,” McNamara told committee members.
According to his testimony, McNamara questioned the proposed appointment of the Cabinet’s Deputy General Counsel as Chair of the Unemployment Insurance Commission, “In my opinion, it would be a clear conflict of interest for her to make decisions about cases governed by rules she helped create. Furthermore, Ms. Meredith was privy to privileged information about how OUI would handle these claims. That information would inform her decision making.”
McNamara also brought up objections to giving a third-party offsite call center access to databases and computer systems.
“I objected to this because I believed that allowing unknown actors access to an individual’s personal identifying information posed a serious risk of identity theft,” McNamara shared. “The response, and I am paraphrasing, was that it is unwise for me to file the objection because if something does happen, then there is a written record of an employee objecting, and that looks worse for the Cabinet.”
McNamara also recalled sharing his concerns about the use of UI funds to pay benefits not approved by the federal government at that time and drew attention to the security breaches of the online website used by Kentuckians to apply for benefits.
Following the committee meeting, House Speaker David Osborne said, “Almost 60,000 Kentuckians waited months without knowing whether or not they would receive benefits. This is the first time that many of these people have had to rely on the government for help, and it failed them. The situation is disheartening enough, but it becomes even more disappointing as we learn more about the failures in the system and how they were tolerated. The more we learn, the more we find out how unnecessary it was.”