Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher Indicted

Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher, a Republican, has been indicted on three misdemeanor counts related to politically motivated personnel practices.

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 with 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.

That these charges are only misdemeanor violations is puzzling. Abuse of the governor’s office to go after state employees on a partisan basis is quite shameful and serious.

It is troubling that the one leading the effort to bring these charges is likewise a political opponent, the Democratic AG. I saw the same thing happen in Alabama, twice, on a bipartisan basis. I’m surprised at how many states still elect executive officeholders separately, creating an inherent conflict of interest.

Update: A knowledgable observer emails some clarification.

Duncan was still in his probationary period and the law on terminating employees who are on probation is very clear: A merit employee can be terminated during probation for any reason “up to the last minute of the last hour of the last day” of their probationary period. The Duncan indictment rests entirely on the fact that his supervisor had proposed ending his probation early – a proposition which was rejected by his superiors, who chose to terminate Duncan instead.

Interesting. Prosecutors can, as the saying goes, “indict a ham sandwich.” It may well be that the charges are all baseless under law.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Christopher says:

    Geeez what do you expect? Its Kentucky and Alabama.

    As to the charges, who cares? He wanted the liberals out-good move by the gov.

  2. Roger says:

    The icon of ethics has spoken.

  3. ron says:

    I think fletcher suffers the same problems as bush from the bureaucracies. from what I understand from the situation(my family is in KY)the bureaucracies, dominated by Dem appointees, were thwarting policy implementation.

  4. legion says:

    He’s also being busted for doing the same thigs Bush does… Whether the people replaced were ‘in the way’ or not I can’t say, but my understanding is that, rather than actually follow the rules & laws for replacing civil servants, Fletcher simply appointed his cronies. Then he pre-emptively pardoned everyone he’d ordered to break the law in doing so. He needs to go.

  5. “Iâ??m surprised at how many states still elect executive officeholders separately, creating an inherent conflict of interest. ”

    I don’t know about the other states, but Texas does this as a direct response to reconstruction. For those of you weak on American history, reconstruction was the occupation of southern states after the war of northern agression (Why yes, I am from the south. Why do you ask?).

    Having a government imposed on us in a top down way against the will of the majority did not go down easily. A constitution was imposed that had a very strong central authority with extensive powers of appointment (including judges). When free elections were held, the puppet government was thrown out by a 2 to 1 margin. The appointed state judges tried to reverse the vote in a way that would make Florida in 2000 look like a model of good election practices. When Grant refused to send troops to enforce the court decision, the imposed government failed. The freely elected government took office and a new constitution convention was called. The constitution convention swung the pendelum back the other way. Lots of minutia was put in the constitution, which means when we want to abolish the office of the guy who pays coyote pelt bounties, it requires a constitutional amendment. But ‘never again’ would state officials be imposed on on the voters.

    Of course the solution is to build up a state party that can win every statewide office. Kentucky just isn’t there yet. The govenor tends to be one of the first spots.