Saturday, July 19, 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Jamie Comer's growing problem with inaccurate gas pumps in Kentucky

When Jamie Comer runs for governor, he's going to do so primarily on his record as agriculture commissioner over the past three years.

His primary accomplishment was getting fellow Republican Richie Farmer thrown in prison, but among the other feats he'll tout, undoubtedly one of them will be the sale of the state's fuel testing laboratory.

It's interesting that something fuel-related will be listed among his positives, since there's an emerging situation regarding fuel sales in Kentucky that could turn out to be a real negative where Comer's political aspirations are concerned.

One of the responsibilities of the Department of Agriculture is to inspect gasoline pumps at filling stations across Kentucky. We're getting reports from several sources that there's a growing problem with the accuracy of gas pumps in the state.

At some retailers, gas pumps are recording sales of gasoline that actually do not occur. The pump starts running and recording gallons and cents before any fuel is dispensed. Videos showing this happening are starting to pop up on the Web and on social media.

We first heard of this happening in the southeastern Kentucky mountains, in the Hazard area. As soon as the customer swiped a card at the pump and removed the nozzle, a few cents ticked off before the first drop of gas was pumped. We then started hearing about other instances of this occurring in that area, and even saw proof on a Facebook video.

Yet another instance took place in the northern Kentucky area, near Florence. The customer shot video as the pump slowly ran up from 7 to 10 cents while the nozzle was resting on the back of the truck, with no one touching it.

Gas prices are a sensitive subject as it is, and this won't help matters. And it certainly won't help Comer, whose name is in big letters on those state inspection stickers that adorn every gas pump in the commonwealth.

We know that the stickers proclaim that testing and maintenance to ensure accuracy is the responsibility of the owner, but we also know that when people feel like they're being cheated, they often turn to the government for help. And when the name of a prominent elected official who is seeking the state's top position adorns the machine that cheated them, they'll likely assign blame to him instead of calling out to him to fix the problem. It's quite likely that they'll ask Attorney General Jack Conway, who's running for governor himself, to intervene. And Conway will waste no time laying this scandal at Comer's feet as he attempts to ingratiate himself with voters who have already seen through his pathetic attempts to control the rampant price-fixing among gas station owners.

Of course, it's in the stations' best interests to fix the faulty pumps immediately, lest they start losing customers as word spreads about which businesses are charging people for gasoline they don't actually purchase. Public pressure will no doubt force their hands.

We haven't seen any media coverage of this situation yet, although as the "shares" continue to grow on social media, they can't ignore it for long. Neither can Comer, who needs to get out in front of this problem as soon as possible lest it come back to haunt his gubernatorial aspirations and cast a pall on what has otherwise been considered by many, even a hostile press, as an effective tenure in statewide elective office.

Hal Heiner's campaign might want to start scouring the Internet for these videos for future use if Comer continues to allow these inaccurate pumps to stay in operation.

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