Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Impropriety allegations surround Beshear transition team member

Given the scrutiny on Steve Beshear these days -- much of it invited upon himself by the governor-elect -- we'd expect he would show a little more prudence in selecting advisers and staff members.

However, one member of his transition team may have a few skeletons in his closet that could call Beshear's judgment into question.

And now comes word that one of his closest campaign advisers and chief of staff-to-be may be under the legal gun for his politicial activities in a Maryland election.

Given the baggage that most of his other appointees and advisers are carrying, so much for Beshear's promises of honest and ethical government.

John Paul Amis, superintendent of Perry County schools, is a member of the transition team for the Education Cabinet. Amis hails from the same hometown as Lt. Gov-elect Dan Mongiardo, so no doubt the two are tight.

Just like in many other rural Kentucky counties, especially in the mountains, school politics in Perry County are fierce. Factionalism often reigns supreme, and superintendents can find themselves hired or fired based on which faction takes power.

A few years ago, Amis found himself the target of a lawsuit over the validity of his contract, filed by his own school board chairman. During the course of the suit, content was discovered on Amis' school-district-owned laptop that was described as "very embarassing" and that "could lead to discipline" of Amis, according to an Attorney General's office response to an open records request for information. General consensus around Perry County was that the embarassing content was pornographic materials. Allegations were also made in the course of the contract dispute lawsuit that while he was the basketball coach and a faculty member at Buckhorn High School, Amis had an inappropriate relationship with a student.

The case became a political football in Hazard. Neither the county attorney nor the commonwealth's attorney moved forward with prosecution. Many felt this was because Amis was a high-ranking member of the local Democratic Party hierarchy.

We don't know if the original contract dispute that spawned the allegations was ever resolved, but when Amis was named to Beshear's transition team, the allegations about him surfaced on PolWatchers, the Lexington Herald-Leader's blog. After the initial mention of them was deleted by the blog moderators, a sourced reference to the AG's opinion was posted and comments on the matter have since been allowed. One individual who claims to be from Perry County and uses the name Lyndon Combs has posted on the matter on PolWatchers, and he seems to be fairly knowledgeable about the issue.

We aren't here to cast aspersions on Amis' character, or to pronounce him guilty or innocent of the allegations against him. That's for others to do. However, with this much of a cloud hanging over him, and with Amis and Mongiardo being from the same small town, someone should have done a better job of vetting him before naming him to the transition team. His presence there reflects poorly on Beshear's judgment.

Of course, none of his appointments to date appear to have had the benefit of sound judgment behind them.

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