View Full Version : Governor Of Kentucky Indicted

05-12-2006, 08:47 AM
Fletcher indicted
Governor calls inquiry political


By Tom Loftus and Mark Pitsch

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Ernie Fletcher was indicted yesterday on three misdemeanor counts alleging that he directed an illegal conspiracy to place his political allies in state jobs at the expense of those who might oppose him.

He is the first Republican governor since 1971 and the first of either party in Kentucky to be indicted. He entered office in 2003 on a pledge to cut "waste, fraud and abuse" in state government.

The indictments charge Fletcher with one count each of criminal conspiracy, first-degree official misconduct and violating the prohibition against political discrimination.

The official misconduct charge carries a penalty of up to 12 months in jail and a $500 fine.

The two other counts allege violations of the state merit system law and carry a penalty of 30 days to six months in jail, forfeiture of state office, and a ban on holding any state job for five years.

It was not immediately clear whether the provision about forfeiting state office applies to governors, who are elected constitutional officers.

Fletcher is the 14th person indicted by the grand jury, which for the past year has been investigating allegations of political patronage in his administration. All but Fletcher are covered by a pardon order he issued Aug. 29.

Fletcher, interviewed at the Frankfort airport yesterday, said he had "no intention" of pardoning himself.

Earlier, in Ashland, he repeated his charge that the inquiry was conducted "in a very politically charged way."

"My conscience is clear, and let me say to the people of Kentucky, we've worked very hard to make sure we've done everything to move this state forward," Fletcher said. "I'm very disappointed, but we'll continue to move forward. I'm not going to let this distract from moving this state forward."

His office filed a motion in Franklin Circuit Court seeking to disqualify Democratic Attorney General Greg Stumbo and his office from the case. The motion says Stumbo wants to run against Fletcher and therefore has a conflict of interest.

During a news conference, Stumbo declined to elaborate on the indictments. "We can't comment upon the evidence. You have to remember that the governor is entitled to his due process of law rights. He's entitled to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The grand jury has spoken. The indictment speaks for itself and I intend to do the job the people of Kentucky elected me to do," Stumbo said.

When asked about Fletcher's motion to disqualify him because of political aspirations, Stumbo said: "We think it's baseless. We'll address it in a proper forum."

The key prosecutor in the case, Scott Crawford-Sutherland, declined to elaborate on the indictments, which come five days before Tuesday's primary election. "I don't have any comment about the timing of the indictments. They are what they are," he said.

The indictments stem from allegations that the Fletcher administration made hiring and firing decisions on the basis of politics, not qualifications, which would violate the state merit law.

The investigation began when a Transportation Cabinet personnel official gave the attorney general's office hundreds of records and e-mails he said showed widespread violations of the state hiring laws.

Yesterday that whistleblower, Doug Doerting, said he had claimed "the unlawful patronage system operated with knowledge, consent and participation of executive branch officials at the highest levels. Apparently evidence and testimony presented to the special grand jury supported that assertion."

Doerting said he did not feel vindicated. "No, because it's really not about me," he said.

Penalty question
State law suggests Fletcher might have to give up his job if convicted on the two counts involving violations of the state merit law.

It says any person convicted of a misdemeanor violation of the law can't be appointed or work in a state job for five years and "if he is an officer or employee of the Commonwealth, shall forfeit his office or position."

Lawyers for Stumbo's office declined to interpret the law. But "it is the position of the office that the statute means what it says," said Vicki Glass, a spokeswoman for Stumbo.

Former Attorney General Dave Armstrong, a Democrat who handled several merit system cases during his tenure, said the issue isn't that clear.

The state constitution says a governor, as an elected constitutional officer, may be removed only through impeachment proceedings by the legislature, he said. Any attempt to remove him for a conviction under merit law could be challenged in court, he said.

Other indictments sealed
Also indicted yesterday was Sam Beverage, a former state highway engineer, on one count of perjury, a Class D felony. The indictment alleges he gave false testimony to the grand jury on Aug. 30, 2005. That's not covered by the pardon because the alleged perjury came after Fletcher's pardon order.

He could not be reached for comment.

The jury also returned 14 sealed indictments. The nature of those charges was not immediately clear.

"The indictments that were presented in court today were presented consistent with the directions from the appellate court," Crawford-Sutherland said.

The grand jury is under order from the Kentucky Court of Appeals to keep sealed any indictments potentially covered by Fletcher's pardon. At issue is Fletcher's contention that the grand jury cannot issue indictments invalidated by the pardon.

The indictments must be kept under seal at least until the state Supreme Court resolves the issue.

The allegations
The seven-page indictment alleges that between May 24, 2004, and Sept. 14, 2005, the governor "ordered, directed and otherwise approved" the development and implementation of the "Governor's Personnel Initiative."

The indictment alleges that the initiative was an orchestrated effort by the Fletcher administration to place political supporters in state merit jobs. The indictment charges that the initiative:

Placed specific non-merit appointees of Fletcher called "Personnel Professionals" in each cabinet of government who would check backgrounds of merit job applicants, including their political affiliation and campaign donation records.

These Personnel Professionals would provide the administration's constituent outreach office, called LINK, with weekly lists of merit job vacancies.

The LINK representatives in eight regional offices would work with their contacts in each county to recruit Fletcher supporters for merit jobs and "improperly assist these preselected candidates" in applying and testing for merit jobs.

These LINK representatives would provide the names of these "preselected candidates" to the Personnel Professionals in the cabinets who "were authorized or required to insure the appointments of those preselected candidates."

This conspiracy, the indictment alleges, resulted in the hiring, promotion, transfer or dismissal of at least 15 employees -- whose names are listed in the indictment.

Cover-up alleged
The indictment charges part of the conspiracy included a cover-up attempt by Dan Druen, a member of the personnel initiative and director of administrative services in the Transportation Cabinet in early 2005.

Druen, whom the indictment alleges was "known to Fletcher as the 'Vetting Guy,' " was indicted last summer on charges of tampering with evidence and tampering with a witness. He was pardoned.

Yesterday Druen could not be reached for comment.

One count against Fletcher alleges he "ordered, directed, approved or otherwise participated" with others May 13, 2005, in the dismissal of Mike Duncan, deputy inspector general in the Transportation Cabinet.

The indictment says Duncan was on a "hit list" prepared by transportation in April 2005. That list said Duncan supported Democrat Ben Chandler's 2003 race for governor against Fletcher. It calls for his firing. He was fired the following month.

Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert has said that Duncan was not fired for political reasons.

The indictment also charges Fletcher perpetrated the conspiracy by making "repeated public statements" denying any conspiracy and saying publicly that his internal investigation into the allegations at the Transportation Cabinet revealed no merit system abuses occurred.

When he issued his pardons Aug. 29, Fletcher admitted some mistakes were made but denied willful lawbreaking in his administration.

During his address, Fletcher compared the indictments to "noodling," the sport of catching fish by hand, without a hook and bait. It is illegal when done out of season. He also apologized "to the people who may have been hurt by our mistakes."

Stumbo to run for governor?
The motion Fletcher's lawyers filed yesterday asserts that Stumbo should exit the case because of his "stated desire to run against Governor Fletcher in the upcoming election. This stated intent creates a conflict-of-interest requiring General Stumbo's disqualification," it says.

Stumbo's spokeswoman, Glass, said of the motion: "The only person running for governor at this time is Ernie Fletcher."

Reporters Tom Loftus and Mark Pitsch can be reached at (502) 875-5136. Reporter Deborah Yetter and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

05-12-2006, 01:32 PM
illegal conspiracyQuick, break out the tin-foil hats!

05-12-2006, 01:38 PM
Quick, break out the tin-foil hats!

Seriously. Why would they indict the Governor of Kentucky for a made up fairy tale?

05-12-2006, 02:23 PM
I guess they they must be sore-loser America hating pinko-commies.