Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Kentucky's Republican Governor Indicted

Membership for the GOP Culture of Corruption is getting filled up!

Enter new member, Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher, who has been indicted on three misdemeanor charges.

The Lexington Herald Leader has more:

After months of speculation and intrigue, a special grand jury investigating the state government's hiring practices indicted Gov. Ernie Fletcher on three misdemeanor charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and political discrimination.

The foreman of the jury, which has been reviewing reams of documents and hearing hours of testimony for nearly a year, calmly read the charges to Franklin Circuit Court Judge William L. Graham shortly before 4:30 p.m. yesterday.

Fletcher becomes the third sitting Kentucky governor to be indicted and the first since Flem Sampson was charged in 1929 with receiving improper gifts.

In addition to Fletcher, the jury charged former chief state highway engineer Sam Beverage with perjury and submitted 14 more indictments under seal.

Those could be made public once the Supreme Court rules on a related question: whether Fletcher's pardoning of his administration staff in August also blocks future charges.

Fletcher didn't pardon himself, but still has that option.

The Republican governor, after stepping off a plane from a visit to Ashland, said he has "no intention of that."

The administration's first response was to fire back at Democratic Attorney General Greg Stumbo, whose office has led the investigation.

Fletcher's personal attorney, R. Kent Westberry of Louisville, filed a motion yesterday evening in Franklin Circuit Court to have Stumbo, his investigators and the prosecutors thrown off the case.

The filing claims that Stumbo is a political rival considering running for governor next year and should be disqualified from the proceedings.

"I think there is substantial conflict of interest there," Fletcher said last night at Frankfort's airport, with his wife, Glenna, at his side.

Although he said he had no plans to step down from office, Fletcher acknowledged the indictments were "a disappointment."

"But it's not going to let us take us off our game," he added.

On many occasions, Fletcher has admitted that "mistakes were made" by his aides when hiring for rank-and-file state merit positions, which are supposed to be filled based on qualifications -- not politics.

But he has maintained that the investigation has been "politically motivated" from the start.

Vicki Glass, Stumbo's spokeswoman, read reporters a three-sentence statement calling the governor's motion "baseless."

A key moment

The indictments came exactly a year after a transportation personnel official, Doug Doerting, walked into Stumbo's office on May 11, 2005, and dropped off boxes of e-mails and documents showing questionable hiring decisions, which started the investigation.

But the timing was more than symbolic.

The one-year window to charge someone with violating or conspiring to break state merit employment laws was set to expire Saturday.

That's the anniversary of the May 13 firing of transportation cabinet inspector Mike Duncan, who claims to have been terminated once administration officials learned he had supported Fletcher's Democratic opponent in the 2003 governor's race.

His firing was the last in a string of personnel decisions alleged to be politically motivated.

Fletcher was specifically charged yesterday with political discrimination in connection with that move.

The indictment says the governor "willfully ordered, directed, approved or otherwise participated" with previously indicted Transportation Cabinet Secretary Bill Nighbert, Deputy Secretary Jim Adams and former Administrative Commissioner Dan Druen to fire Duncan, a merit employee.

The administration has argued that Duncan had worked for the cabinet less than six months, so he was still a probationary employee who could be removed for any reason.

Earlier this week, Duncan filed suit against the state charging wrongful termination

John Boehner may not know it, but he is giving the Democrats a gift by shafting the American people on ethics reform.

Can he really be that oblivious? I guess he just doesn't care.