Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A big part of our problem

One of the biggest problems facing Gov. Fletcher and Kentucky Republicans as we approach next week's election is that the untruths and half-truths the Democrats are telling about the merit system hiring probe aren't being adequately countered. We've seen few public outlets besides this one get to the truth about the situation. The Conservative Edge has done a good job, especially regarding the recent deposition by Doug Doerting that he and the attorney general's office fought so hard to keep him from doing. Posters to many of the blogs, such as PolWatchers, have also run down a litany of truths about the situation. But many of the mainstream blogs and all of the mainstream media outlets have ignored the situation, or worse, allowed the Democrat lies to go unanswered.

The Democrats must be operating under the motto of "Tell a lie often enough and eventually the people will believe it."

A prime example appeared in last Friday's Lexington Herald-Leader. Prominent Eastern Kentucky Democrat attorney Ned Pillersdorf wrote an opinion column rehashing the personnel situation, and while doing so obscured the truth to the point that it was barely recognizeable. Of course that's to be expected from Pillersdorf, a liberal who's married into the Stumbo family in Floyd County and joined State Rep. John Will Stacy in criticizing the groundbreaking on a project to widen the Mountain Parkway to four lanes.

In Pillersdorf's column, he tells of a former Transportation Cabinet employee who supposedly lost her job because of politics. It'd be a sad tale, if only it was true.

The employee, Leslie Campbell, was let go before her probationary period ended because she failed to meet her probationary criteria. She was not replaced by a newly-hired employee with Republican connections. She was replaced with an employee who was already working for Transportation and who had to go clean up the mess she had left as timekeeper in the Wolfe County state highway garage. No indictments were ever issued as a result of Campbell's employment situation.

As for the allegation that she was told she could have a job if she changed her party registration from Democrat to Republican, that claim was made against someone who is not even in state government and has no authority to make personnel decisions. That's a far cry from the practice Democrats used in past years when state merit employees with authority to make personnel decisions told applicants they would not be considered unless they were registered Democrats.

We've already pointed out the error the press made in claiming that a Transportation employee from Western Kentucky was transferred 80 miles from his home, then the truth was he was transferred 30 miles closer to his home. Anonymous commenters on the mainstream press and Democrat blogs continue to make claims of merit employees being fired, when in fact that never happened. Only one merit employee was dismissed in an action that led to an indictment, and has been documented many times, he was on probation and subject to dismissal for any reason or no reason at all.

One of the failings of the Fletcher administration has been not adequately answering these outlandish and untrue charges, but that's not entirely their fault. They have repeatedly attempted to set the record straight with the press, but the big papers have never been interested in publishing Fletcher's side of the story. The Herald-Leader has known for months the truth that Doug Doerting approved all the personnel actions that he later claimed in his whistleblower complaint were improper, but the Herald has never pursued that story.

In the meantime, the Pillersdorfs of the world continue to spew their untruths without consequence to them. The consequence we will all suffer will likely be a huge step backwards for Kentucky if Steve Beshear beats Ernie Fletcher on the basis of the personnel investigation.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Auditor of public accounts endorsement -- Linda Greenwell

Crit Luallen is proof that you don’t have to be male to be a good ol’ boy.

She’s been in state government for decades and has served at the right hand of the last three Democrat governors. She bolted from her position as Secretary of the Executive Cabinet in Paul Patton’s administration, at the height of his sex and ethics investigation, to preserve her own political viability. She ran for state auditor four years ago, barely beating Republican opponent Linda Greenwell.

This year, voters get a chance to correct the mistake they made when they elected Luallen. They should do so by choosing Greenwell to serve as auditor for the next four years.

During her 2003 campaign, Greenwell warned of what might happen if the two watchdogs over the executive branch, auditor and attorney general, were Democrats under a Republican administration. Her fears came to pass. Attorney General Greg Stumbo’s arbitrary prosecution of personnel violations against the Fletcher administration speaks for itself, but the auditor’s office under Luallen has engaged in similar partisan behavior. Luallen claims that she has instituted more audits against local Democrat officials than Republicans, but her office only rushes to put out a press release claiming corruption in local government when a Republican is involved. One of the most egregious examples came when her office found fault with Knott County Judge-Executive Randy Thompson’s spending. Thompson, a Republican appointed by Gov. Fletcher in the wake of a criminal vote-buying scandal that claimed the career of Democrat Donnie Newsome, and then elected to his own term, was written up for things that occurred while Newsome was still in office and running the county out of his prison cell.

Luallen has also tacked pressing items such as the state’s awarding of a contract for vehicle purchases to the only bidder who successfully fulfilled the bid specifications – sounds like good government to us; the real crime would be giving a bid to a bidder that didn’t meet the specifications – and the application of the state’s new “Unbridled Spirit” brand. Between going after local Republican officials and needlessly investigating the executive branch’s proper spending, it’s hard to believe she has time to campaign and to keep up her appearances with the Democrats’ old guard in this state.

Luallen brags about her government service that spans three decades, but most of that time was spent in the service of the Democrat machine that has held this state back for years. That alone is reason enough to turn her out of office, which the voters should do.

Greenwell is personable, competent, and is a lady of integrity. She should have been elected four years ago, and she should be elected this time around.

We heartily endorse Linda Greenwell for auditor. Kentucky voters should reject the female good ol’ boy, Crit Luallen, and put an independent auditor in place.

Secretary of state -- No endorsement

By all accounts, Republican incumbent Trey Grayson has been an excellent secretary of state.

He’s considered a rising star in the Republican Party in Kentucky.

His Democratic opponent in his re-election campaign, a schoolteacher by profession, hasn’t even gotten the endorsement of the state teacher’s union and was bounced from office after serving only one term as mayor of Pineville amid a number of allegations of wrongful behavior.

This would lead one to believe that a conservative Republican blog such as this would heartily endorse Grayson, right?


While we cannot endorse Bruce Hendrickson, the Democrat challenger, neither can we give Grayson an endorsement because of the way he conducted himself in the face of the Democrat onslaught against his party’s governor.

Grayson would have earned our undying gratitude had he helped defend Gov. Ernie Fletcher against the witch hunt of a political investigation that resulted from the personnel probe. At the very least, he could have stayed silent as the Democrats took their shots at Fletcher.

Instead, Grayson actually floated the idea of challenging Fletcher for the GOP nomination this year during the 2006 Fancy Farm picnic. He quickly backed off that idea, but elephants have long memories and we certainly remember Grayson’s act of political opportunism instead of helping the governor upon whose coattails he rode to office four years ago.

Therefore, while we believe Grayson to be the better qualified candidate, we refuse to endorse him in this year’s race and will certainly be skeptical of any races he may attempt in the future. It’s a shame he’s being regarded as a rising star in the state GOP. It looks as if he’s gotten that title by stepping on the backs of those who helped get him that mantel.

And as an aside, we believe that secretary of state, like state treasurer, is an office that should be eliminated and its duties spread elsewhere. If we must have a treasurer, secretary of state or agriculture commissioner, those should be appointed offices in the executive branch, not elected positions.

We’ll be skipping this race when we go to the polls next week. We cannot in good conscience cast our votes for Trey Grayson despite his being the superior candidate.

Treasurer endorsement -- Melinda Wheeler

Like commissioner of agriculture, state treasurer is a position we believe should not be elected. In fact, we’re in favor of abolishing the office and assigning the office’s few duties to other areas of state government.

This year, there’s a candidate for the office who agrees with us.

Melinda Wheeler, the Republican nominee for treasurer, wants to see the office abolished. She believes, as we do, that the office is not needed and its duties can be farmed out to other personnel.

Wheeler emerged from a crowded field of Republican candidates that included three GOP state representatives, Lonnie Napier, Ken Upchurch and Brandon Smith. She has spent her career with state government, not as a political hack like Crit Luallen because of her party allegiances, but with the Administrative Office of the Courts in the non-partisan judicial branch. She’s a native of Paintsville, in the eastern part of the state, but has lived in Central Kentucky for years now.

Her opponent is Todd Hollenbach from Louisville, scion of a well-known Democratic activist family. Not surprisingly, he disagrees with Wheeler on the need for the treasurer’s office and, in fact, wants to expand the duties of the office.

We’d be pleased to endorse Wheeler anyway, but her desire to do away with the position of state treasurer as an elective office matches our long-held position. We urge you to cast your vote for Melinda Wheeler on Nov. 6.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Commissioner of Agriculture -- No Endorsement

Our first endorsement is a non-endorsement. In the race for commissioner of agriculture, incumbent Richie Farmer is taking on Democrat challenger David L. Williams. We offer no endorsement in this race.

Commissioner of agriculture is an elective office that should be abolished. No other commissioners are elected in this state. We don't elect our highway commissioner or property tax commissioner or public health commissioner. We see no reason to elect the commissioner of agriculture. By abolishing this as an elective office and having it become an appointed position in the executive branch, some duplication of government services could be abolished. There is currently a Governor's Office of Agriculture Policy, which we see as not needed. This office was started by the Patton administration to handle the tobacco buyout program, but has carried over because agriculture is such an important part of our state's economy yet the Department of Agriculture operates independently of the rest of the executive branch.

But until such time as the legislature and the voters see fit to eliminate this elective office, we will still be holding an election for it every four years. And this year our choices are Farmer and Williams.

Farmer, of course, is the University of Kentucky and Clay County High School basketball legend. By most accounts he's done a decent job of marketing the state's agriculture industry during his four-year term. Williams is a perennial candidate who's changed parties between Democrat and Republican several times.

In ordinary times, we'd endorse Farmer for this post, but these are not ordinary times. During a period in which Kentucky's Republican governor has endured the slings and arrows of the Democrats, the enormously-popular Farmer has done little or nothing to show support for his party's under-siege executive. Farmer is from one of the few GOP stronghold areas in the state and his vocal support of Fletcher could have been helpful. We're not sure what Farmer's motivation was. He's a rock star in Kentucky but we aren't sure if he has aspirations for higher office. And we're honestly not convinced that he'd be qualified to move further up the ladder. He's personable and can hit the 22-foot jump shot, but we aren't sold on his intellectual capabilities to be secretary of state or auditor or lieutenat governor or governor.

We don't think Williams is worthy of your vote and support. But quite honestly, we don't think Farmer has earned the right to be supported by conservative Republicans in his re-election bid. We believe Farmer to be the superior candidate, but we are withholding our endorsement of him in this race. And we are looking forward to the time when the commissioner of agriculture will no longer be an elective office.

KPAC Endorsements

Over the next few days, we'll be offering endorsements in the upcoming statewide elections. While we don't expect them to have any effect whatsoever on the electorate, we're doing it because we can. And also, we want to get a few facts about each race out into the public discourse. We'll start with the down-ticket races and work our way up.

Low-class comments by a low-class politician

For years, Democratic gubernatorial candidates have been going to the mountains and promising to expand the two-lane portion of the Mountain Parkway to four lanes. The highway, built in the early 1960s, is four lanes from Winchester to Campton. At Campton, in Wolfe County, it splits into two two-lane forks heading deep into the hills. The fork going toward Salyersville and Prestonsburg keeps the Mountain Parkway name while the fork heading toward Hazard and Whitesburg is known as Route 15.

Candidate after candidate has made the promise to start improving the Mountain Parkway, which has not seen substantial renovation since it was built. Even Paul Patton, who had to travel that road every time he went from his Pike County home to Lexington or Frankfort, never moved forward with the project that would pay significant economic and highway safety benefits to his fellow Pike Countians.

The Mountain Parkway thrusts through the heart of several staunchly-Democratic counties. Wolfe, Morgan and Magoffin are all heavily "D." Floyd County, reached by an extension of the Mountain Parkway from Salyersville known as Route 114, and Pike County, further to the southeast on US 23, are also dominated by The Party of the Ass. Yet the Democrats never pushed to widen the route after promising it.

Ernie Fletcher did.

Last weekend, Fletcher and other state and local officials broke ground on a project to widen the first 3 miles of the Mountain Parkway past the spot where it narrows to two lanes. This project is expected to cost $48 million. And to make it go faster, Fletcher designated it as one of 10 "design-build" road projects that were authorized by the General Assembly last year. We aren't engineers, so we aren't sure how to define the "design-build" concept, but we're told that it enables the construction timetable to be advanced by allowing phases of the behind-the-scenes planning and the actual dirt-moving to proceed simultaneously. It's faster and cheaper and moves the project toward completion much faster.

As is typical at these events, state legislators are invited to attend and participate. The governor is usually magnanimous in his praise of the legislators, even those of the opposite party, and he can always find some complimentary things to say about them. Wolfe County is represented by one state senator and is split into two House districts. Sen. Robert Stivers, a Republican, was unable to attend because of a death in his family. The two state representatives are both Democrats. Richard Henderson, a freshman legislator from Montgomery County, didn't show. Neither did John Will Stacy, a veteran House member from Morgan County.

However, Stacy was more than willing to make comments critical of the project and the groundbreaking event's timing, two weeks prior to the election, to an Associated Press reporter. The negative comments were picked up by the Courier-Journal and the Herald-Leader.

We asked some people we know in Stacy's area about him. About the nicest things they had to say about him were "arrogant," "obnoxious," "rude" and "a prick." Several more comments violate this blog's policy on profanity.

Stacy is known as one of the most partisan Democrats in the legislature. Yet he never had the clout within his own party to move this project, which will serve his home district, forward in the Six-Year Road Plan or toward construction. Perhaps the fact that it took a Republican governor to advance a needed road project in a heavily-Democratic area of the state is a testament to Stacy's own inadequacies as a legislator. Maybe that's why he didn't show up and was so critical of the project in print.

We should note that both the mayor of Campton and the Wolfe County judge-executive are Democrats, yet they attended and participated in the event willingly and happily. Their non-partisan spirit of cooperation for the good of the community is to be congratulated.

We have a suggestion for Rep. Stacy. In about three years, the Mountain Parkway widening project will be finished and there will be a new stretch of four-lane highway in Wolfe County. There is an existing two-lane road that bypasses the section of the parkway to be improved. We think that since Stacy seems so opposed to this project finally being done after years of being ignored by those in his own party, he should refuse to drive on it. Whenever he goes from Morgan County to the Bluegrass region, he should get off the Mountain Parkway at the start of the new four-lane and drive the old road.

His comment were certainly classless. Then again, sounds like he is, too.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More Beshear hypocrisy

During Tuesday night’s gubernatorial debate, Steve Beshear gave us another blatant example of the hypocrisy upon which his campaign is built.

Responding to questions about illegal immigration, Beshear said it’s not the state’s responsibility to enforce federal immigration laws.

Funny, but Beshear didn’t have that same attitude toward the federal government when he was attorney general from 1979-1983. During that term, he was only too happy to enforce a United States Supreme Court decision about the posting of the 10 Commandments on public property, including public schools.

Wonder why it was OK for Attorney General Beshear to enforce a federal court ruling about the 10 Commandments way back then, but now potential Gov. Beshear doesn’t think the state should be enforcing federal laws?

Could it be that removing the Decalogue from places of public prominence is part of the political agenda for Beshear and others of his liberal ilk, but that protecting our borders and our government budgets from the threats posed by illegal immigrants isn’t a priority for Democrats?

Or could it just be that Beshear’s a hypocrite?

We vote for about 15 percent of the former and 85 percent of the latter, especially given Beshear’s history of ignoring and not enforcing merit system laws as attorney general while basing his entire campaign of late on criticizing Ernie Fletcher for alleged personnel law violations.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Traitor Rick redux

Need another good reason to despise Rick Pitino?

In 1995, Pitino was an ardent supporter of Larry Forgy in his campaign against Paul Patton.

In 2007, Pitino hosted a fundraiser for Steve Beshear.

We're not sure if it was the Boston or Louisville influences that warped his mind so greatly in a dozen short years.

A deal we'd take in a heartbeat (or, how the media again misrepresents the facts to make the Fletcher administration look bad...)

Once again, you can count on Kentucky's mainstream press to screw up a news story to cast Gov. Fletcher's administration in the worst possible light, when a simple glance at a map would have allowed the reporter to present facts instead of falsehoods.

Late last week, it was reported that Transportation employee Terry McKinney had been awarded a raise and an apology letter in a yet-to-be-approved settlement between McKinney and the Transportation Cabinet. The settlement has yet to be approved by the Personnel Board.

McKinney, a resident of Kuttawa, had been administrative manager of the Transportation District 2 office in Madisonville. He claimed that he was forced to take a voluntary demotion and accept a transfer to the District 1 office near Paducah. Under the terms of his voluntary demotion, he kept the same salary he was earning as administrative manager in Madisonville.

Press reports claimed that McKinney was transferred 85 miles from his home. This is a flat-out untruth. While it may be that Madisonville is 85 miles from Paducah, the fact is that Paducah is closer to Kuttawa than is Madisonville.

We don't know exactly where in Kuttawa McKinney lives, but we consulted a popular mapping program to run some numbers. When we ran the distance from Kuttawa, Ky. to 1840 North Main Street in Madisonville, the address of the District 2 office, We got a total of 53 miles, to be driven in 58 minutes. But when we ran the distance from Kuttawa to 5501 Kentucky Dam Road in Paducah, the location of the District 1 office, we got 27 miles and 31 minutes.

So the truth is that McKinney was transferred to a workplace half as close to his home as his previous workplace. Funny how the Fletcher-hating press has missed out on that fact.

Of course the Fletcher-haters in the blogosphere picked up on that, repeating again the untrue mantra about employees being fired or transferred for political reasons and being forced to sell their homes, move their families and pull their children out of school. It's easy to believe such lies if you take what the Associated Press and other Kentucky newspapers published at face value, but when you do a little research, as usual, you find the entire story is not being told.

But back to McKinney ... seems to us he got a good deal. He got to keep his salary, he lost a lot of job-related headaches, and his daily commute to and from work was cut in half. We'd take that deal in a heartbeat.

And one more question about McKinney -- no one seems to be asking just how it came to be that a former Democrat county judge-executive was in charge of hiring for a highway district during an era when Democrat patronage ran rampantly unchecked through the Transportation Cabinet. To us, that smells fishy. Where was the attorney general when we needed him?

Monday, October 01, 2007

EXCLUSIVE: Was Beshear an active participant in Brown administration's personnel law violations?

On the eve of what appears to be a momentous turning point in the ongoing investigation of the Fletcher administration's civil service hiring practices, The Kentucky Pachyderm has learned that Democrat gubernatorial nominee Steve Beshear may have been an active participant in the John Y. Brown Jr. administration's blatant and willful violations of state merit system laws more than a quarter of a century ago.

Heretofore we have considered then-Attorney General Beshear's failure to prosecute the well-known violations in the Brown administration as "malignant neglect." It was the worst-kept secret in Frankfort and from border to border that the Brown administration had improperly fired a number of state merit workers, who filed complaints with the Personnel Board to get their jobs back alleging political discrimination among other things. (Apparently, most of these were Democrats who backed the wrong candidate in the primary and Brown was taking his revenge). This fact could not have been a secret to Beshear, who nevertheless failed to investigate the violations. (It's later been revealed that allegations of merit system violations in the office of "musical chairs" official Frances Jones Mills were brought to Beshear, but he said it was a matter for the Personnel Board, not the AG's office).

However, we have uncovered evidence that suggests Beshear had an active role in trying to keep the "John Y. Retirees," as they came to call themselves, from returning to their state jobs. This suggests that his failure to investigate and prosecute Brown or members of his staff was a malignant act of malice instead of a benign act of incompetence or political blindness.

A number of the John Y. Retirees' cases made their way into a class action lawsuit styled Heck v. Personnel Board. A Beshear supporter from western Kentucky who signs himself "Paul Johnson" may have accidentally provided the smoking gun to link Beshear to the improper actions when he posted a summary of the Heck case on a statewide blog a couple of months ago.

Brown's term as governor ended in 1983 when Martha Layne Collins won election over Jim Bunning. Since at that time statewide officeholders were not eligible to succeed themselves, Beshear ran for and won the lieutenant governor's race.

Kentucky's last four governors have had well-publicized rifts with their lieutenants. Wilkinson-Jones, Jones-Patton, Patton-Henry and now Fletcher-Pence have all had fallings-out that cooled their relationships. Not so with Collins and Beshear. The two did not see eye-to-eye on a few issues, but in general they not only got along, but were partners in policy.

Heck far outlived Brown's administration. The case was still being litigated in 1986 and 1987, as Collins' term was coming to an end and Beshear and Brown were slugging it out for a Democratic nomination that eventually went to Wilkinson.

Why did the case drag on this long? It frequently happens that if some sort of procedural question is being heard when a gubernatorial administration changes, the new administration will quietly withdraw the state's pursuit of the case and let the matter drop, even when there's no friction between the old governor and the new one. However, in this case, state government under Collins continued to strenuously fight the reinstatement of the John Y. Retirees at a tremendous cost of time, money and other resources.

Why, we ask again? Well, look at the common denominator. Steve Beshear was Collins' lieutenant governor and he had much influence in her administration. It certainly appears as if he is the one who insisted that this case go forward to its conclusion, which was not favorable to the government.

Beshear's nefarious involvement in the Kentucky Central case and his unethical behavior is bubbling to the surface. It's time his involvement with the John Y. Retirees did the same, to include his apparent active participation in the violation of merit system laws he'd sworn to enforce as attorney general and obey as lieutenant governor. Yet Beshear claims to have the crown of "reformer" and his supporters say he will restore integrity and ethics to Frankfort, and they point to the Fletcher administration's highly-publicized personnel woes.

With the prime whistleblower finally being put on the spot and being made to back up his claims -- which we know he cannot do because we know the truth about his motivations -- the entire base of Greg Stumbo's probe is about to be eroded. And when that happens, there goes the last vestige of Beshear's hypocritical claims of integrity and valor.