Friday, August 25, 2006

Kentucky Governor Reaches Settlement to Dismiss Criminal Charges

Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher reached an agreement with Attorney General Greg Stumbo to have the misdemeanor charges of violating state personnel laws dismissed.  Governor Fletcher was accused of violating the state's merit hiring policies by making political affiliation a key to retaining one's position with the state, and he earlier pardoned everyone in his administration except himself for any acts they did in relation to hiring.  The agreement is a bit odd because it does not require Governor Fletcher to do anything, and four members of the state's Personnel Board will resign their positions.  Highlighting the political nature of the fight, Attorney General Stumbo, a Democrat, will submit three names for each of the Personnel Board positions to Governor Fletcher, a Republican, who will then appoint the new members from the suggested names.  The Board will hear appeals from former state employees who claim to have been discharged based on their politics.

The agreement (available below) contains a number of carefully worded admissions that will allow Governor Fletcher to deny any direct illegal acts, which will be important in case he faces Attorney General Stumbo in next year's gubernatorial election.  For example, while the Governor "acknowledges that the evidence strongly indicates wrongdoing by his administration" and "that he regrets their occurrence, and accepts responsibility for them as the head of the executive branch," nevertheless "[t]his sincere expression of ultimate responsibility, however, is not an admission in any way of criminal wrongdoing by the Governor nor directly on behalf of the Governor."  In other words, it was wrong, I know it was wrong, but don't blame me for doing anything wrong -- that sounds sincere.  These "admisstions" could be the start of an effective stump speech for Attorney General Stumbo, except that the order concedes that acts by the administration "were without malice," thus making it harder to argue that any crime even occurred.  Attorney General Stumbo had asserted that so long as his office -- he was barred from participating in the case by a state judge due to the potential conflict -- was prosecuting Governor Fletcher he would not run for Governor.  Talk about a win-win situation, at least for the two elected officials: the Governor is off the hook while the Attorney General can pursue his political career.  For the public, the criminal charges are swept under the rug, at least until the campaign takes a nasty turn.  A Lexington Herald-Leader article (here) discusses the case. (ph)

Download fletcher_dismissal_order.pdf

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