Wednesday, August 15, 2007

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The State Journal reported that in two recent appeals resulting from one case, one was settled and the other was withdrawn by the employee.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 In addition, three cases were withdrawn.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.

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