Monday, August 27, 2007

Return of the reckless blogger: As usual, Nickolas plays fast & loose with the truth

Mark Nickolas and his blog have never shown much regard for the truth, or for the reputation of good people. Nickolas routinely publishes falsehoods and smears decent individuals, and he never shows much remorse when he's wrong.

Once he restarted his blog from the wilds of Montana, it didn't take him long to revert to his old ways.

Prior to Nickolas shutting down his blog and moving to Montana, a known Fletcher-hater posted a rumor about the state Department of Revenue using prison labor to process income tax returns, which is a clear violation of state law.

When Nickolas restarted his online smear sheet, he used that "tip," along with another supposed scoop he picked up somewhere, and published those allegations as the God's honest truth, instead of merely questioning whether such had taken place. In the process he continued his smear campaign against good people, this time Marian Davis, a well-liked southeastern Kentuckian who recently left her post as commissioner of Revenue for a job with the Republican Party of Kentucky.

The only problem with Nickolas' assertions about the use of prison labor is that they are false.

Mark Hebert, the investigative journalist from WHAS-TV in Louisville and a reporter not known to be friendly to the Fletcher administration, did his own poking around into the matter. If there's anything to be found, especially if it will reflect badly on the current administration, Hebert will find it. This time, though, Hebert whiffed. He could find nothing to substantiate the allegations, and so posted on his own blog on WHAS's Web site.

When this little tidbit of information was pointed out to Nickolas, did he retract his previous statement? Apologize to Ms. Davis or the Fletcher administration? Admit his error?

Of course not. Nickolas' obsession with and hatred for Fletcher transcends all. And since he doesn't profess to be a journalist, he doesn't abide by the same standards of accuracy as most journalists do.

Then again, Nickolas has never worried about truth or accuracy. The number of individuals he's slimed in the name of partisan Democrat politics is long and impressive. The late Justice McAnulty. Chief Justice Lambert. Gov. Fletcher, of course. And now Marian Davis.

Plus, he's allowed comments that are libelous per se to remaiin on his blog after they were posted by some of his foaming-at-the-mouth followers. Accusations that two former Fletcher administration appointees are gay and exchanged love notes via the state e-mail system are probably the most egregious example. There are plenty of others; all one has to do is wade through the sewer that is BGR's comments section. It's gotten so bad that most of the conservatives who used to brave the stench to do battle with the liberals have departed, and now only a couple remain to fight the good fight and carry on the Lord's work.

Nickolas hasn't gotten his entire audience back yet, though. Some of the most notorious posters from the days when he operated out of the Bluegrass haven't returned, and with him being a couple of thousand miles away, he doesn't have his ear to the ground in the Commonwealth anymore. He has to rely on his "sources" such as the ones who fed him the bogus story about Revenue using prison labor.

As long as Nickolas continues to push false stories and doesn't back down from them when he's proven wrong by a respected reporter, who certainly took no great pleasure in finding something that exonerated the Fletcher administration of a potentially damaging allegation, his credibility will take a beating and he'll be exposed for the vindictive, partisan hack that he is.

And it couldn't happen to a more deserving person.

Do you call this justice?

News broke today that Shane Ragland has pleaded guilty, after 13 years, to killing UK football player Trent DiGiuro way back in 1994.

Originally convicted of murder and set to stand trial again later this year after the conviction was overturned, Ragland steadfastly proclaimed his innocence and even had a Web site set up saying he didn't do it.

Now he has finally admitted his role in the slaying, but his guilty plea was to manslaughter, not murder. It appears as of this writing that his sentence will be time served and he will soon be a free man, a prisoner only of his own conscience.

Since his arrest and after the evidence linking him to DiGiuro's killing became public, Ragland always struck us as a punk who hid behind his daddy's money and political power in Frankfort. Indeed, we expect that young Shane will be pardoned by the next Democrat governor who comes along, be it Casinoman Beshear or someone on down the pike in future years.

The motive behind this senseless killing was especially appalling -- it seems Ragland blamed DiGiuro for blackballing him from joining a fraternity, and that's why Ragland ambushed DiGiuro as the football player was on the porch at a party at a Lexington residence.

We always felt that DiGiuro's death was something that hastened the end of the Bill Curry era at UK. The team never recovered from the shock and tragedy, especially as the case grew colder as time went by without any clues emerging.

We can partly understand the prosecution's desire to plead this one out. Problems with the first trial threatened to overshadow the retrial, and the availability of Ragland's ex-girlfriend, a key witness, was in question. Supposedly she felt threatened by the Ragland family and was reluctant to testify again. (We believe that certain members of the Ragland family ought to be indicted for intimidating a witness for the way she has been treated). And while the defense has made statements saying they felt they could prove Ragland's innocence (or more properly, that the state could not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt), they knew going to trial was a roll of the dice and they could not be 100 percent confident of a verdict of acquittal.

We really have no qualms with the manslaughter plea, either. Whether it's murder or manslaughter, Ragland has finally admitted to what he did. But we do have problems with what appears to be the sentence. Time served? That's only eight years and change, plus several months on home incarceration. We really think that Ragland should serve at least 10 more years, given the premeditated and petty nature of his crime.

Was this a good outcome? Has justice been served? We have our doubts, but we are glad for the DiGiuro family that the ordeal is finally over and they can have some closure to this case that has haunted them for nearly a decade and a half.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Meet another average Kentuckian

In light of how the press and the Democrats are trying to dismiss the dismissal of an ethics complaint against Gov. Fletcher as motivated by partisan politics, we feel it's time to introduce you to another average Kentuckian.

George S. Smalley, a/k/a Scott Smalley, is a network analyst III with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. In 2006, he earned $47,120 through his state salary in a merit system position.

During Gov. Fletcher's term, the decision not to give the customary 5 percent annual increment to state merit system employees has cost Smalley more than $9,000.

Scott Smalley was a member of the special grand jury that considered charges against members of the Fletcher administration and the governor himself for nearly two years. Although the bulk of the investigation concerned the Transportation Cabinet, there were allegations of hiring improprieties within CHFS.

Smalley is another person who was financially impacted by the decisions of the administration of which he voted to return indictments and issue a scathing final report. When his $9,000 loss over a four-year period is coupled with the $16,000 that forewoman Rachel Auxier did not receive in annual increments, that's 25,000 reasons to be angry at the governor and to indict him.

The media is happy to give loudmouths like Cynthia Stone a forum in which to allege bias in the decision, yet the same press will not address the obvious conflicts of interest that members of the special grand jury had.

If they won't, we will. In the meantime, we think it's fair to question just how objectively Ms. Auxier and Mr. Smalley could evaluate the evidence presented by a politically biased prosecutor (remember, Scott Crawford-Sutherland gave $2,000 to Ben Chandler in 2003) given their financial situation.

Another Ann Sheadel sighting

About three weeks ago, we discovered and revealed that a Louisville attorney contracted as a hearing officer by the state Personnel Board, who is hearing appeals rooted in the state hiring investigation, supported and made the maximum contributions to Ben Chandler in 2003.

Well surprise, surprise, it looks like Ann Sheadel has herself another gig through which she can throw darts at the administration of the governor who defeated her preferred candidate four years ago.

Sheadel is also being used as a hearing officer for the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, and news reports from late yesterday reveal her as the officer who issued a decision that was not favorable to a former Fletcher administration appointee who is facing ethics charges.

Former Transportation Cabinet administrator Dan Druen lost his bid to have the ethics charges against him dismissed in a decision handed down by Sheadel.

We certainly are not members of the Dan Druen Fan Club. We believe him to be a bad apple, a rogue employee whose efforts to curry favor with his superiors led him to make a number of bad decisions; then when confronted with his choices, he chose to blame others, including Gov. Fletcher, for his woes.

But we still have to wonder how ethical it is for a key Ben Chandler supporter to be issuing decisions in cases involving the administration that defeated her preferred candidate and kept him and his entourage from assuming power.

The press and the Democrats have been crying foul over the Ethics Commission's decision not to pursue charges against Fletcher, saying partisan politics are involved. Cannot the same argument be made when a hearing officer who wasted $2,000 on Ben Chandler's candidacy is issuing decisions relating to the administration of the man who vanquished Happy's grandson?

Whomever is responsible for selecting these hearing officers needs to be called into the big office in the rear of the Capitol's first floor and be given a "Come to Jesus" talk. There are thousands of attorneys in Kentucky; surely it's possible to find a dozen or so who weren't big contributors to Ben Chandler to hear these cases.

We believe Sheadel's continued involvement in any cases involving the Fletcher administration to be a conflict of interest and while we would never expect the Fletcher-hating press in this state to look into the matter, we would certainly expect the administration to take steps to take her and others off these cases. We don't think Fletcher supporters should necessarily be hearing these, but neither should supporters of Fletcher's opponents. How about finding some politically disinterested lawyers to issue these rulings?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fast-food foulup in West Virginia results in huge lawsuit

Quite often on this blog, we rail at the incompetence of minimum-wage fast food workers who can't seem to understand what "plain" or "no pickles" or "Diet Coke" means.

We've never been tempted to sue, but someone in our neighboring state to the east has sued, claiming all sorts of problems resulted when a Morgantown, WV-area McDonald's didn't hold the cheese on his Quarter Pounder.

The Charleston Daily Mail has the story of a Clarksburg man who claims he had an allergic reaction to the cheese that McDonald's put on his burger after he specifically requested no cheese, please. He's suing for $10 million.

Wonder how long the minimum-wage employee who screwed that order up would have to work for his salary to pay the judgment should the plaintiff win? McDonald's will be attaching the paychecks of his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren to pay off that liability.

But we have to ask, where is the personal responsibility in all of this? Why didn't the guy look to see if there was any of the offensive yellow stuff on his burger before he ate it? After all, he bought the burger at Star City (which is north of Morgantown near the Pennsylvania state line) and didn't eat it until he got back to Clarksburg, which is at least a half-hour drive away on the interstate.

And why would anyone get food at a Star City McDonald's and take it all the way home to Clarksburg? There is a McDonald's at the Clarksburg exit and his burger would have had to be stone cold by the time he got it home.

At any rate, maybe the publicity from this lawsuit (which may end up rivaling the Washington DC pants-at-the-drycleaner story) may make restaurant managers stress to their minimum wage employees the importance of getting customers' orders right.

Ethics Commission clears Fletcher; Dems break necks spinning the news

The Fletcher administration (and re-election campaign) got a bit of good news a couple of months ago when the governor was cleared of personal wrongdoing by the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, which had investigated charges of ethical violations by the gov arising out of the personnel investigation. The Fletcher campaign chose to release the letter of exoneration yesterday after rival Steve Beshear continued referencing the probe in his campaign rhetoric.

The clearance by the Ethics Commission, coupled with Attorney General Greg Stumbo's "with prejudice" dismissal of misdemeanor charges against Fletcher last year and the rate at which the administration is winning the Personnel Board cases brought in conjunction with the investigation, should serve to throw a lot of cold water on Beshear's prime campaign point of the current administration's record.

The decision had been private and confidential until the governor authorized its release through his campaign manager, Marty Ryall. Once Ryall made it pubic, the reaction of this state's leading Democrats was both predictable and comical, although we wondered if they would show up for work this morning wearing neck braces given the way they spun the announcement.

Both Beshear and Attorney General Stumbo denounced the results, claiming Fletcher had stacked the Ethics Commission with supporters who would naturally see things his way. The common denominator is Vicki Glass, former AG's office spokeswoman who now is the communications director for Beshear's campaign and who personifies the 80's song "Dumb But Pretty" by power popsters Tommy Tutone (of "867-5309 Jenny" fame).

Glass made the comment that while Fletcher may have selected four of the five commission members who exonerated him, he didn't pick the grand jury that issued the misdemeanor indictments.

At this point we would remind "Dumb But Pretty" that her old boss dismissed the charges with prejudice last year, and we would also point out that the impartiality of the particular grand jury is in question because of the fiduciary interests of the merit employees who sat on that grand jury, and of the predominace of Democrats on the panel. Need we remind her that the forewoman of the grand jury lost out on about $16,000 because the traditional 5 percent raises weren't granted during this administration? And need we remind her, Beshear and Stumbo that the lead prosecutor was a financial supporter of Fletcher's defeated opponent in 2003? Scott Crawford-Sutherland gave the maximum donation of $2,000 to Ben Chandler and anyone who believes that he was totally impartial in his prosecutorial duties is a prime candidate to buy some oceanfront property in Taylor County we have up for sale.

We have to note that in quoting "Dumb But Pretty," the press failed to note her past connection to Stumbo. Quite honestly, we feel that's very relevant to any comment she makes about the hiring investigation from her outpost on the Beshear front.

Not only did the Herald-Leader, in its coverage of the news, trot out their usual suspects in the "Bash Fletcher" lineup, but they also drug Dan Druen back into the fray. Druen so far is the only one who's gotten into hot water with the Ethics Commission, but he has tried to save his sorry hide and has blamed Fletcher for everything.

At this point we would also remind Druen that all of the personnel decisions for which indictments were issued occurred before the implementation of the Governor's Personnel Initiative. We would also like to remind him, and everyone else, that the initiative was designed to centralize hiring and to break up the continuing Democrat patronage scheme that was being practiced by mid-level managers (who themselves were products of and owed their allegiance to the Democrat patronage system) and local Democratic Party elected and party officials. They were still running a traditional Democrat patronage system in a GOP administration, and the Fletcher administration was determined to stop that practice.

Fletcher promised an investigation into charges of Republican favoritism in hiring and one was conducted. He promised that offenders would be punished and they were. Does anyone remember the firings of people named Fields, Murgatroyd, Beverage and Meadows, among others?

One positive thing that can be gleaned from the press' effort to play down the Ethics Commission's ruling is that Beshear has finally been put on the spot regarding his inaction in addressing personnel violations when he was attorney general during John Y. Brown's term from 1979-83. And surprisingly enough, it doesn't involve the firings of the "John Y. Retirees" that went on right under Beshear's nose.

Reporting on the Fletcher decision by the Courier-Journal has revealed that in 1983, during the last year of his term as AG (and when he was running for lieutenant governor) he was given evidence of merit system violations in the office of Secretary of State Frances Jones Mills (who was for years the personification of Democrat corruption in Kentucky state government) but deferred to the Personnel Board, saying those violations were the bailiwick of the Personnel Board and not the AG's office.

We were frankly unaware of this situation, but when this is coupled with the saga of the John Y. Retirees, Beshear has lost the moral authority to criticize the Fletcher adminstration's personnel practices. We have to grudgingly give the press credit for including this in their stories and we urge them to flesh this matter out further.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Steve Beshear speaks with forked tongue

All the reviews are in from the political bloviating at Fancy Farm, and the judgments of who won and who lost are predictably breaking down along partisan boundaries. The mainstream press gave Ernie Fletcher credit for some of his lines and comments, but are basically hailing (predictably) Steve Beshear as the winner of the unofficial oratory contest.

They particularly liked his comment about following the law, and how it would be nice for a change for Kentucky to have a governor who followed the law. His comment came in response to Fletcher's remark that Beshear played a key role in the removal of the 10 Commandments from Kentucky public school classrooms. Beshear said he was simply following the law.

We have looked and we don't see any requirement that a STATE attorney general enforce a FEDERAL court decision, but that's beside the point.

Beshear certainly turned a blind eye to the law when he ignored the Brown administration's violation of merit system laws in the dismissal of several employees shortly after he took office in 1979. After all, Beshear served as attorney general during Brown's term as governor, and it was no secret across the state that the fired employees were taking their grievances to the state Personnel Board and to court.

If people out in the state knew about the situation, it couldn't have been unknown in Frankfort. It defies logic to think that Beshear did not know of the situation. His failure to act constitutes neglect of his duties as attorney general.

There are significant differences between the personnel decisions in the current Fletcher administration and what happened in the Brown administration. The Fletcherites were accused of using political favoritism in making decisions on whom to hire for vacant positions. Only one questioned personnel decision involved the dismissal of an existing employee, and he was on probation and subject to dismissal at any time for any reason, or no reason at all. The Personnel Board ruled that he was let go for political reasons, in the process ignoring testimony from Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert that there were legitimate reasons for letting him go.

In contrast, the Brown administration terminated merit employees "with status," meaning they were off probation and under the full protection of the merit system laws.

In recent days participants on other blogs have begun reciting a litany of other misdeeds committed by Gov. Brown and ignored by AG Beshear. They even mentioned The Bluegrass Conspiracy, a book which chronicled the sordid activities of a number of Central Kentucky folks and one which hits home to one member of this blogging collaboration because of a relative who figured prominently in the book.

So when Beshear speaks of obeying the law and having a governor who obeyed the law, it's fair to ask him what's changed since his 1979-83 term as attorney general. He certainly wasn't interested in enforcing the same laws back then that he is accusing Gov. Fletcher of violating now.

And we're still waiting for the mainstream press to ask Beshear about his inaction and failure to investigate the Brown administration personnel firings. They raised the Kentucky Central issue a couple of months ago, hoping to get that out of the way so it won't come back up between now and November. Maybe they realize this is a very explosive issue and don't want it to get out in the open and away from the blogosphere, or maybe they classify this in the same category as they do the biases of the merit system grand jury and the lies on which Doug Doerting built his whistleblower charges.

Taking a look at the scoreboard

By now it's obvious that the Steve Beshear campaign has two main strategies this fall. The first is to push for approval of casino gambling -- probably the KEEP proposal that would primarily benefit the horse industry -- and the second is to bash Ernie Fletcher for his administration's supposed lawlessness. The Democrats will point to the handling of a handful of personnel decisions in 2004 and 2005 and use that to claim that the Fletcherites have no respect for Kentucky's laws and should be turned out of office based on that conclusion.

Of course that ignores Beshear's overlooking of the John Y. Brown administration's raping of merit system laws when Beshear was attorney general, but a look at the scoreboard shows that the Democrats are off-base if they try to attack the Fletcher administration's personnel decisions.

The Frankfort State Journal published a story earlier this week that offered a look into how the personnel decisions that resulted in indictments against Fletcher administration officials have fared before the state Personnel Board. The results, you may be surprised to learn, are skewed in Fletcher's favor. While they don't result in a total vindication of every personnel decision, they do show that for the most part, the hiring decisions were correct.

The State Journal reported that in two recent appeals resulting from one case, one was settled and the other was withdrawn by the employee. In 15 other cases, 16 appeals have been resolved. Of them, eight cases were dismissed, one was sustained and two were partially sustained. In addition, three cases were withdrawn. Only two were settled.

What this means is that the Fletcher administration won the vast majority of the cases. Out of all the above cases, only three were settled, which can be construed as a victory by the appelant. The dismissals, affirmations and withdrawals were victories for the administration and acknowledgement that the administration (primarly the Transportation Cabinet) made the right decision.

There are five cases remaining, with one settlement pending and hearings planned for the other four.

One of these cases is messy. The Personnel Board ordered a hiring decision in Transportation's Bowling Green office reversed, and the person who received the job is fighting to keep it. This one may take a while to get fixed.

Remember, too, that this isn't a stacked Personnel Board. As part of the agreement dismissing misdemeanor charges against Gov. Fletcher, he agreed to appoint new Personnel Board members to hear the appeals from recommendations forwarded by Attorney General Greg Stumbo. And one of the elected employee members is a former Patton administration non-merit appointee who generally isn't friendly toward the Fletcher administration.

So even though the Democrats will continue to rail against Fletcher and use the personnel probe as their key campaign issue, the Personnel Board is quietly and without any fanfare (and with a number of known anti-Fletcher hearing officers under contract to hear appeals) saying the hiring decisions were properly made. This is something the Fletcher campaign should pick up on and use anytime the Beshear camp brings up the hiring investigation.

And the State Journal piece notwithstanding, you can bet this is something the state's dominant media won't pick up on.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Jody Richards: Political Coward

There are several words and phrases that can aptly be used to describe Kentucky House Speaker Jody Richards: obstructionist, dinosaur, out of touch, two-time gubernatorial loser, etc. But the term we think most aptly describes Richards these days is coward.

How better to explain Richards' stubborn refusal to let the House of Representatives consider anything but the Peabody incentives in a special legislative session this year?

Richards orchestrated the House majority's walkout during the special session last month (while on the other end of the Capitol, the Senate stayed in session and did the people's business in only three days) and then got his comeuppance from Peabody. Jody had been insisting that a letter of intent, stating that the General Assembly would pass incentives in the 2008 regular session, would be sufficient to get Peabody to consider locating a coal conversion operation in Kentucky. When Richards managed to get Peabody representatives, Senate officials and Gov. Fletcher together, though, he was put in his place by Peabody. The coal company's officials told the state's elected braintrust (and we use that term loosely with Richards being involved) that the only way Kentucky would be considered for the plant was if a legislative package was enacted this year.

That took the heart out of Richards' claims that the special session was unnecessary and the Peabody package could wait until next year. Of course the Democrats in the state and their cheerleaders like Larry Dale Keeling fell all over themselves congratulating Richards for brokering a deal, but the truth was that Richards was the one with the egg on his face. He had to acquiesce to a special session but kept on rattling his saber (which is badly in need of some Enzyte) and claiming that if any other items are added to the session's call, he'll lead the Democrats out of the House Chamber (and, like lemmings, probably off the edge of the Annex Parking Garage).

This is why we call Jody Richards a political coward. The other items that were originally on Gov. Fletcher's special session call, including capital construction projects that the state finally has money for and a ban on domestic partner benefits for state-funded agencies like universities, enjoy overwhelming support, not only from the state's voters but from the House's Democrat caucus. A large number of Democrats actually want to vote on these initiatives -- and vote for them.

Richards knows this. He knows that if those subjects come up for a vote, they'll pass. The Senate, even thought is's controlled by the GOP, passed the governor's items on a hugely bipartisan basis. Even the Senate Democrats voted overwhelmingly for most of the bills. Democrats in the House would be similarly supportive because they know the issues are popular back home with their voters and constituents.

But Richards is afraid to let these items come up for a vote. So he orchestrated a shutdown of the first sesson and threatens to do the same in the upcoming session. Democrats who really want to vote to approve the governor's presentation don't want to buck leadership on the adjournment issue, so they're caught between a rock (Richards being an authoritarian partisan) and a hard place (their constitutents who want a domestic partner benefits ban passed and want the construction projects funded).

If Jody had a set, and his saber wasn't so short, he'd let the session proceed as the governor called it. The Kentucky Constitution gives the governor the sole right to call a special session and set the agenda; once that's done, the legislature has an obligation to carry out its duties in good faith. Richards, being afraid of the outcome if the bills actually came up for a vote, refused to allow that to happen. Was the special session call motivated by politics? Probably. But that's the nature of the beast, especially now that Kentucky allows gubernatorial succession and we're seeing the first real challenge to an incumbent since succession was approved.

Now Mr. Speaker has put his party in the untenable position of having to defend its actions. The backlash from the failure to vote on the construction projects and the partner benefits ban will no doubt have a negative effect on the Democrats' candidates this fall. Such is the price of cowardice.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Sorry, Kentucky, but your cancer has returned

One of the things about cancer that makes it such a dreaded disease is that oftentimes when you think you're cured, suddenly out of the blue the cancer returns.

Well, Kentucky, we're sorry but your cancer is back.

Mark Nickolas and was a cancer on the political discourse in this state. With its profanity, vile language, half-truths, untruths, total fabrications and the way fine, honorable, upstanding citizens and public servants were treated there, Nickolas contributed little to the body of public knowledge except to fire up the know-nothing reactionary liberals in this state.

When he left Kentucky, along with his shack-up female companion, for Big Sky Country, we were overjoyed to hear that he was shutting his "slander hole," as critics from within his own party called it, down for good.

Now comes news that like a recurrence of cancer, Nickolas is resurrecting on the strength of donations from readers who obviously have more money than sense to contribute to his cause.

Of course since "The Foundation for Kentucky's Future" is no longer a non-profit organization, donations aren't tax deductible anymore. Wonder if the idiot Democrats who will help pay Nickolas' bills realize that?

At any rate, Kentucky, we're sorry that this cancer has returned.

Information needed on attorney in Monroe County

We need a little help from our readers. If any of you know the identity of an attorney from Tompkinsville (Monroe County) who handled personnel cases for one or more of the "John Y. Retirees" back in the 1980s, please let us know by sending an email to The attorney may be long since deceased, but even if he is, knowing his identity will be very helpful in our quest to stop Steve Beshear from becoming governor of the Commonwealth.

Friday, August 03, 2007

A little history lesson

We've quite frankly been a bit amazed at the level and content of the responses to our most recent post about Bill Patrick's appointment as Kentucky's drug czar. We have no way of knowing if all the anonymous comments critical of that particular decision and the Fletcher administration's appointments in general are from the same poster or from different posters. We don't have an IP address tracker here to see how many "hits" we get or where the visitors come from -- and quite frankly, no one in our little collaborative effort here has the technological savvy to know how to install one and we're working stiffs who really can't afford to go out and get a fancy "" domain with all the bells and whistles like Osi or Brett or even Markos Nickolas when he infested the Bluegrass State.

But for that poster (or posters) and others who may be laboring under those misconceptions, a little history lesson is in order.

Kentucky Republicans out in the state weren't clamoring for high-powered appointments in the Capitol. They didn't want to uproot their families and move to Frankfort. They just wanted access to the highway department and social work and similar merit system jobs that had eluded Republicans for decades, even in counties with 75 to 80 percent Republican registration where the Democrat power structure controlled who filled the infrequent state vacancies.

That was the genesis for the much-discussed Governor's Personnel Initiative, which really was a centralization of the hiring process. Even with a Republican administration, Democrat county chairs and local Democrat officeholders still had more influence than the Fletcherites in local hiring decisions, primarily because the merit system managers responsible for those personnel decisions were products of the Democrat patronage system and still owed their allegiance to it. After complaints from Republicans who were still being shut out of state merit jobs, along with the local GOP movers and shakers who were taking heat from local party stalwarts and jobseekers, the administration took steps to wrest control of hiring from loyal Democrats who were still doling out state jobs like political candy on Halloween only to good Democrat kiddies wearing jackass costumes.

Meanwhile, let's not forget that for the high-level non-merit gubernatorial appointments, the state's federal delegation had an inordinate amount of influence over who got those positions. At the time, Kentucky had two U.S. Senators and five U.S. Representatives in the GOP column, with one vacancy because Ernie Fletcher's seat had not yet been filled. Those senators and representatives chose many, if not most, of the non-merit appointees. (Although we'd like to forget that Mitch McConnell was directly responsible for Dan Druen getting his job with the Transportation Cabinet). Fletcher also brought along much if not all of his Congressional staff, including Chief of Staff Daniel Groves and Bluegrass Regional Representative Terry Ammerman among others.

A lot of high-powered Republicans from out in the state ended up in plum positions, many from Hal Rogers' district. Fletcher also reached across party lines to tap old and trusted friends such as Brad Cowgill for key posts. But the reality is that Fletcher was elected with an awful lot of Democrat support and he owed some debts to those who went out on a limb and crossed over to be in his corner. That loyalty to the Fletcher campaign needed to be repaid.

And something a lot of people don't know is that for some of the politically appointed positions, there are specific experience requirements that no Republicans met because they hadn't been in a position in state government to acquire the necessary background. Some of the non-merit engineering positions in Transportation are like that; there are others scattered across state government. There was no other option but to put Democrats in those jobs, and Fletcher needed to make sure they were loyal to him.

If our anonymous friend or friends want to call Fletcher a RINO and point to his non-merit appointments as proof, they're welcome to do so. But those are statements made out of ignorance by someone who obviously isn't familiar with the situation and with the landmines that a Republican statewide official must navigate to win office and cultivate loyal support.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Fletcher's crossover support will be stronger than expected; prominent Dem takes high-level position in administration

In a state where 65 percent of the registered voters are Democrats, it's a political fact that any Republican candidate for a statewide office has to have significant crossover support to win.

That's what makes Ernie Fletcher's 11-point victory over Happy Chandler's grandson in 2003 all the more amazing. Fletcher's victory was the equivalent of a Morehead or Murray State not only beating UK in basketball, but blowing them out by double digits, in Rupp Arena no less.

Conventional wisdom has it that this year, Fletcher's support among Democrats will be seriously eroded because his administration has been accused of favoring Republicans and discriminating against Democrats in state hiring practices. This is the only real issue the Democrats have to use against Fletcher, and since it breaks along party lines, the pundits think Fletcher won't get the Democrat support he got four years ago.

Don't count your roosters before they hatch.

What the pundits conveniently forget is that 60 percent of the Fletcher administration's non-merit appointees are Democrats. They obviously wouldn't have been appointed if they didn't support him, and they logically wouldn't still have their jobs if they were not planning on supporting him this November.

Most of these appointees are politically active and influential. They will hold sway over friends, family members, trusted employees and people they know in the community. One of the criticisms of Fletcher has been that he appointed too many Democrats to non-merit jobs, but in reality it was a politically shrewd move since only 35 percent or so of the state's voters are registered with the GOP and they will be inclined to support their party's nominee anyway.

One recent appointee signals just how strong Fletcher's crossover support may be this fall.

Longtime Democrat activist Bill Patrick was named yesterday as the director of the Office of Drug Control Policy. Bill Patrick is no ordinary Democrat. He's been a party official, held many positions in Democrat administrations and served as county judge-executive in Powell County. It's a safe bet that Patrick brought a pledge of support for Fletcher to this appointed position, and no doubt he will use his influence with his significant political network to drum up support for the incumbent.

Patrick's promotion to a high-visibility position (previously held by another Democrat supporter of Fletcher, former Franklin County Judge-Executive Teresa Barton) is a clear indication that the heralded Democrat unity behind Steve Beshear's candidacy is a myth. When a high-profile Democrat like Bill Patrick aligns himself so closely with the Republican governor, that should be cause for alarm for the Beshear camp.

The reports of Ernie Fletcher's political death may have been very premature. Stay tuned. It's only August.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Take that, Mark Nickolas: State gov't. reportedly investigating Internet misuse by employees

Last year when Mark Nickolas started whining about his now-defunct (thank God for small miracles) no longer being available to state employees on the state computer network, two of his complaints stood out.

One was that he did not understand why most conservative bloggers did not support his position. He found it impossible to believe that conservatives expect government employees to do government business on the taxpayers' dime, not to surf and comment on political blogs (in express violation of state laws and personnel policies). He wanted conservative bloggers to join his fight against the Fletcher administration but he got no allies on the right side of the spectrum. Most conservative bloggers would prefer that state employees read the conservative blogs at home, off the clock, instead of at work. Even a few anti-Nickolas Democrats jumped on that bandwagon, and they brought Johnathan Miller into the fray after Nickolas revealed that Miller was one of his inspirations for starting the blog.

His other complaint was that he felt his site and others with a left-leaning perspective were being targeted, while conservative sites and other non-work-related sites were not blocked and state employees had access to them from state computers.

Well, just because they have access, that doesn't mean that they are allowed to go there. It's a lesson a few state employees may be getting ready to learn the hard way.

We hear from several sources that one or more state agencies have disciplined or are getting ready to discipline employees for improper Internet usage. The Herald-Leader has been asking questions, conducting interviews and reviewing open personnel records in one cabinet for certain and possibly others. Transportation recently implemented a tough new Internet usage policy that prohibits employees from visiting a number of sites or performing certain activities on state computers, even if they do so during lunch or during their 15-minute morning and afternoon breaks. And this isn't gambling or porn or political commentary, either. Among the activities that Transportation employees are expressly prohibited from doing at anytime on a state computer is personal shopping. That means no more surfing eBay or ordering "duck shoes" from L.L. Bean or anything of the sort. Other agencies may be following suit.

It's been more than a year since the blog ban went into effect. Although Nickolas now lives in Montana, he still has a federal lawsuit going against the Fletcher administration. If the blog ban hadn't been put into effect, wonder how many state employees might be facing disciplinary action because they improperly accessed a political blog site on state computers?

Instead of suing the state, Nickolas probably ought to thank the Fletcher administration. The blog ban may have saved the jobs of some of Nickolas' most ardent state employee supporters.