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.