Auditor Ball Welcomes Commonwealth Office of the Ombudsman to the Auditor’s Office to Provide Accountability of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services


Frankfort, Ky. (July 1, 2024) - Today, Kentucky Auditor Allison Ball welcomed the Commonwealth Office of the Ombudsman to the Auditor's Office as its new home. Senate Bill 48 (2023), as passed unanimously by the General Assembly, moved the Ombudsman's Office from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) so that the Ombudsman could provide improved, independent oversight and accountability for CHFS.

“My team and I are dedicated to shining a light on how CHFS's practices, policies, and services can be improved for the benefit of all Kentuckians," Auditor Ball said.

The Commonwealth Office of the Ombudsman will investigate complaints about CHFS and work to resolve citizen complaints concerning employees, contractors, or public service programs.

Auditor Ball has appointed key leadership for the office. Jonathan Grate will serve as the Ombudsman. He brings a depth of notable experience to the role, having spent decades working on behalf of children and families across the Commonwealth. Grate served as Auditor Harmon's Chief of Staff and General Counsel, having previously served a term as Deputy Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. Additionally, Grate served two decades leading the staff of the Judiciary Committees in the Kentucky General Assembly drafting legislation on topics related to the judicial system, including child dependency, neglect, and abuse, civil rights, domestic relations, substance abuse, the juvenile code, and much more.

“Jonathan is a dedicated public servant who is passionate about providing transparency throughout the Commonwealth, making him the perfect person to lead the Ombudsman's Office," said Auditor Ball. “Kentuckians will be served well by his leadership in this important effort."

“I am honored by the trust Auditor Ball has placed in me with this appointment, and I will do everything in my power to both be worthy of that trust and to do right by the millions of Kentuckians whose lives and livelihoods are touched by CHFS' operations, funding, and regulatory authority," said Grate.

Heather Wagers will serve as Deputy Ombudsman. Wagers, an attorney, is well-known as a subject matter expert on matters involving vulnerable and abused children in the Commonwealth, having served as the Director of Trafficking and Abuse Prevention and Prosecution in the Attorney General's Office. In this role, she championed human trafficking reform in the Commonwealth, delivering additional support for survivors and tools for prosecutors and law enforcement, achieving national recognition. Prior to this role, she served as the Deputy General Counsel and Legislative Director for the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, having been promoted after a career of service with the Kentucky State Police where she advocated for public safety initiatives. Wagers also notably served as an elected member of the Personnel Board, the proxy chairwoman for the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board, served on the Kentucky Multidisciplinary Commission on Child Sexual Abuse, and was recognized as a Legendary Partner by the Children's Advocacy Centers in 2022 for her efforts in combatting child abuse. She continues to serve as a member and advocate of the Children's Justice Act Task Force. Through these roles, Wagers has been a determined leader and advocate for children and trafficking survivors which will serve her well in this new role in the Ombudsman's office.

Laura B. Sudkamp will serve as Director of the Division of Program Performance. Sudkamp previously served as Director for the Kentucky State Police Forensic Laboratories, overseeing six forensic laboratories across the state covering all criminal forensic disciplines. Notably, in 2019, she was the first civilian appointed to the Kentucky State Police Command Staff. As Director of Program Performance, Sudkamp will oversee the Division of Program Performance to ensure programs administrated by CHFS are assessed in depth, fairly, transparently, and effectively.  

Bryan Morrow will serve as Director for the Division of Citizen Services & Policy Review. Morrow was previously the Deputy Solicitor General responsible for the Office of Criminal Appeals under Attorney Generals Russell Coleman and Daniel Cameron. Prior to that, Morrow worked as an Advisor for the Public Protection Cabinet's Office of Legal Services, where he provided legal services to state licensure boards. Morrow will be responsible for investigating complaints directed toward CHFS programs and personnel.

​Jane Harper will serve as the Executive Advisor to the Ombudsman. Previously, Harper served twenty years in executive support for The Fellowship Community, a Presbyterian non-profit in Louisville. Later, Harper served under the Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet until 2022, then she joined the Office of the Auditor of Public Accounts as Deputy Chief of Staff under Auditor Harmon. Harper will bring her expertise in servant-based management to her role as Executive Advisor to the Ombudsman.

Maira Gomez will serve as Deputy General Counsel for the Ombudsman, transitioning from serving as Auditor Ball's Deputy General Counsel. Gomez previously practiced in family law, which included cases of domestic abuse. Gomez also served on the board of a non-profit organization that served and advocated for youth and adults impacted by human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Hannah Wall will serve as Deputy Communications Director. Wall obtained a bachelor's in marketing and graphic design with honors from Asbury University. She has experience crafting communications for both English and non-English speakers, having spent time working in Spain preparing marketing campaigns for local non-profit patrons. She will continue using her skills in this area to create public and social media postings to better inform the citizens of the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth Office of the Ombudsman will begin operations under the Auditor of Public Accounts beginning today. To learn more about this office, visit their website.