A house of cards...
For months, we have been trying to spread the truth about the state hiring investigation. The personnel probe is the sole reason that our incumbent governor, Ernie Fletcher, faces primary opposition. The investigation and the resulting indictments led to the (in our view, mistaken) belief that Fletcher cannot be re-elected this fall against Democrat opposition.
Many truths about the hiring probe have never been reported by the mainstream press in this state. The Herald-Leader, the Courier-Journal and several broadcast reporters have an agenda of getting Fletcher out of office. For the print media, it's been a steady stream of poison-pen editorials and selective, agenda-driven reporting that have been a one-two punch against Fletcher. By eagerly gobbling up every statement and every leaked document from the prosecution, the papers have constantly been in attack mode.
We have tried to find out and publish the truth about the investigation; truths the mainstream press have been aware of and have ignored, or truths that the Democrats say are irrelevant.
What are those truths? Let's go over them one more time.
The hiring probe was set off by Doug Doerting, a disgruntled employee in the Transportation Cabinet. He was upset because Fletcher did not recall that they were high school classmates and angry that he could not parlay that scholastic connection into being the personnel director at Transportation.
Doerting told Transportation officials that their personnel actions were above board. Then he improperly obtained the documents he turned over to the attorney general's office, followed by seeking whistleblower status and then retiring so he could not be disciplined for his improper actions.
The attorney general, Greg Stumbo, is a partisan Democrat who stated he would not run for governor unless Fletcher became "wildly unpopular." Prosecuting a governor would serve to make said governor unpopular. Plus, Stumbo himself had made politically-based personnel recommendations while a House of Representatives member.
The lead prosecutor, Scott Crawford-Sutherland, was a Ben Chandler supporter whose tactics in seeking indictments from grand juries had been criticized in other cases.
There was no precedent for this type of investigation in Kentucky. Previously, claims of political favoritism in hiring had been handled by the Personnel Board or Executive Branch Ethics Commission. The latter board fined ex-Gov. Paul Patton for his role in securing the promotion of a Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement officer who had gotten Patton's mistress, Tina Conner, out of a speeding ticket. No criminal prosecution was undertaken in that case although Patton admitted he violated merit system laws.
Plus, ex-Gov. John Y. Brown blatantly fired protected merit system workers and that was well-known across the state. Yet Attorney General Steve Beshear (yes, the same Beshear that is running for governor this time) did not prosecute.
The grand jury was biased. A number of the members were either state merit employees or Democrats, two groups not sympathetic to the Fletcher administration. The forewoman of the grand jury, Rachel Auxier, was a merit employee who missed out on between $12,000 and $16,000 in a four-year period because the Fletcher administration did not give 5 percent raises to state employees.
The prosecution conducted itself unprofessionally throughout the investigation. Whereas most prosecutors keep their evidence close to the vest, the attorney general's office constantly leaked information that was unflattering to the Fletcher administration to the press. This certainly turned public opinion against the governor. What relevance, for example, did an e-mail between two appointees discussing whether or not Fletcher should resign as governor have to the investigation? None, yet the AG's office happily leaked that to the Herald-Leader, which made that e-mail the lead story on the front page.
As Fletcher promised, his office conducted an investigation into Stumbo's allegations. They found that there was no intentional criminal behavior, but there were some policy violations by appointees, who were dismissed. Fletcher had previously pardoned them for any criminal indictments resulting from the probe because the governor did not think any criminal violations had occurred. He did not pardon himself, the grand jury indicted him on three counts on the last possible day, and Stumbo finally had to disimiss the indictments with prejudice because, despite his claims that he felt the governor would pardon himself, the truth was he did not have a case against the governor. Conveniently, that also cleared the way for Stumbo to run on a gubernatorial ticket as Bruce Lunsford's running mate.
Put all that together and what does it mean? Quite simply, it means that the entire investigation and the indictments resulting from it were bogus, without merit, and not legitimate. Mistakes made because the so-called "expert" was setting you up, evidence improperly obtained, and a biased prosecutor and grand jury? How much more proof is needed?
And since the whole investigation has proven to be a house of cards, that means everything that has come down the pike since then is also a house of cards. That includes the Anne Northup and Billy Harper campaigns. They are built on unstable foundations.
Had this whole bogus investigation never begun, we think it's safe to say that Fletcher would have no opposition in the primary. We knew the Democrats would be lining up to run against him because they don't know how to act when they don't have power in Kentucky, but it's been disappointing to see two Republicans, whom we thought were loyal, actually align themselves with those Democrats and use an illegitimate personnel probe on which to build their candidacies.
When you go vote on Tuesday, remember that the whole premise behind the Northup and Harper campaigns -- that Ernie Fletcher can't win in the fall -- is built on a house of cards. Then cast your vote accordingly.