Friday, November 17, 2006

Grand jury report: No new revelations, just same tired old falsehoods

As expected, no new ground was broken in the special grand jury report on the merit system investigation, but you wouldn't know that by the way the media pounced on it.

There was nothing new presented, no blockbuster disclosures that hadn't previously been included in prosecution filings -- indeed, the whole report looks as if it could have been written by Greg Stumbo or one of his lackeys in the attorney general's office.

But the news media treated the report as if it was some sort of previously unknown revelation. The Lexington Herald-Leader used a front-page headline of the type normally reserved for presidential assassinations or Kentucky basketball national championships.

And what was in the report? Gov. Fletcher probably stated it best when he called it "a savvy litany of political sound bites." The report was chock-full of baseless accusations with no supporting evidence.

For example, the report made reference to all those poor merit system employees who had been fired, demoted or transferred illegally. Yet it made no reference whatsoever to any specific instances, and none of the quashed indictments, save one, ever pointed out one personnel decision that negatively impacted an existing employee.

(That act, the dismissal of Mike Duncan, really doesn't count because Duncan was a probationary employee and according to state law, he could be dismissed at any time during that probationary period without cause).

The state's two leading newspapers and that Democratic circle jerk of a blog, bluegrassreport.org, all posted PDF copies of the grand jury's final report. Yet one thing was conspicuously absent from their postings -- the names of the grand jurors.

The state's dominant media have given this anonymous bunch of prosecutorial tools a complete pass. They have been allowed to malign the reputations and ruin the careers of good people without question and behind a cloud of anonymity. No one has held the members of the grand jury accountable for their acts. We already know the biases of the prosecutors. Stumbo's designs on the governor's office are well-known. Prosecutor Scott Crawford-Sutherland's political biases have been documented through his contributions. But no one has seen fit to look into what biases the grand jurors brought to the table. The only inkling of such came when in an interview with an out-of-state media outlet, Stan Cave made the comment that all the grand jurors are registered Democrats. We don't know how many of them may have relatives employed in state government, or may be state employees themselves. We don't know if any of them contributed to the campaigns of Greg Stumbo or Ben Chandler. We don't know any of this because the media, in its anti-Fletcher frenzy, has not seen fit to hold them accountable. They have been used as the prosecutor's tools -- ham sandwiches, anyone? -- and have allowed themselves to be used as such without any scrutiny whatsoever.

Their use of Fletcher's campaign materials and their use of his campaign slogan to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in such a derisive manner in their report is a good indicator of their prejudices and their true intent, however.

What makes matters worse, though, is the way in which they allowed themselves to be used in an unprecedented criminal prosecution. Never before had personnel matters come under such legal scrutiny, despite widespread and ample evidence of Democratic misuse of the merit system for decades.

In fact, this grand jury stuck its collective head in the sand and refused to even see why a Governor's Personnel Initiative was necessary. They failed to note that Democrat merit system personnel officers were still doling out jobs to Democrats despite the change in administrations. They saw that the total number of Democrats in state merit jobs had decreased by a measly 2 percent -- but still far above the statewide percentage of registered Democrats -- and felt it was the biggest crime in this state since Honest Dick Tate absconded with the state treasury.

In the days to come we can expect the obligatory editorials from the state's dominant dailies, the sanctimonious columns from the likes of Larry Dale Keeling and Don McNay, and the uninformed blog posts of Mark Nickolas and his band of groupies.

But two things we can't expect are truth and accountability. The truth was not to be found in the grand jury report, and the grand jurors will never be held accountable for the unwarranted damage they've caused the reputation of the finest, most principled man ever to be elected governor in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and those whose careers they destroyed in their zeal to bring Ernie Fletcher down.

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