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.