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.