Kentucky GOP Governor Indicted

May 12, 2006

From The Lexington Herald-Leader:

The special grand jury that’s been investigating state government hiring practices today indicted Gov. Ernie Fletcher on three misdemeanor charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and political discrimination.

The jury also indicted former transportation Cabinet official Sam Beverage for perjury, which is a felony. And the jury also submitted to Franklin Circuit Judge William Graham 14 more indictments that are under seal.

Those indictments cover crimes that may have occurred before Aug. 29, 2005 when Fletcher pardoned all administration officials except himself.

On the charge of conspiracy, the indictment states Fletcher “ordered, directed and otherwise approved the development and implementation” of what became known as the governor’s personnel initiative.

That initiative, which included participation from cabinet aides across the administration, tracked the political backgrounds of new hires.

In the second indictment for official misconduct, Fletcher is accused along with other “co-conspirators” of ordering or approving “the appointment, promotion, demotion, transfer or dismissal” of rank-and-file state workers who are supposed to be judged on their qualifications, not political affiliations.

The third count charges Fletcher with violating the prohibition against political discrimination because he “willfully ordered, directed or approved” the firing of Michael Duncan, an investigator in the Transportation Cabinet’s Office of Inspector General.

Duncan, who had contributed to Fletcher’s 2003 Democratic opponent, was fired May 13, 2005. That was the same day another Transportation Cabinet whistleblower dropped off boxes of files to Attorney General Greg Stumbo, launching the investigation into the Fletcher administration’s personnel procedures.

Fletcher ultimately pardoned the 13 current or former administration officials or associates who were indicted by the grand jury. The charges were mostly misdemeanors.

Although he has acknowledged that mistakes were made, Fletcher has denied any wrongdoing. The Republican governor has accused Stumbo, a Democrat, of conducting a politically driven investigation.