The more we read and hear, the more convinced we become that the majority of Kentuckians don't have a clue about what has gone on with the state merit system hiring investigation, and the circumstances surrounding it.
From the mainstream press to the moonbat posters on Kentucky's major Democrat blogs -- and even to some of our conservative blogosphere cousins -- it's apparent that no one really knows the situation.
So in the spirit of public service, we'll try to inform you. Sit back, grab a cup of coffee or a bottle of Ale-8 (12-ounce returnable is the best, as all Winchester stumpwater afficianodos know), and relax. This may take a while but in the end, you'll be a better educated Bluegrass State denizen.
We start with the undisputed fact that for years, the Democrats ran a full-blown patronage operation in the state government merit system. That is a fact and cannot be denied, no matter how hard some Democrats try. To deny the existence of the Democrat patronage machine is like denying the Holocaust. The numbers revealed during Gov. Fletcher's blue-ribbon merit system task force research offer enough proof, and that is corroborated by the tons of anecdotal evidence that's out there. We've heard stories of Republican would-be merit system applicants being told they'd have to register as Democrats before they'd even be considered for a state job. (In fact, that happened to Gov. Fletcher himself in his younger days). We've read reports from children of former Democrat officials in Republican-dominated counties that all state hires in that county were cleared by the local Democrat chair. And on and on and on.
Over the years, those Democrats have advanced through the ranks to the mid-level management positions in state government; the branch managers and section supervisors. There are even some merit system division directors within the bureaucracy. We'd be willing to be that the percentage of Democrats in these management jobs is even higher than the overall statewide numbers.
Now here's where it gets tricky. Even after the Fletcher administration took over, the Democrats in state government continued to run their own patronage system. It has been documented time and again how the merit system bureaucracy has been recalcitrant, hostile, insubordinate and downright mutinous towards the new administration. A cursory reading of the posts from state employees on Democrat blogs will confirm that. Merit employees, so set in their inefficient ways, refused to go along with many of the new ideas put forth by the bright new minds that came to Frankfort with the Fletcher administration.
Many of these loyal Democrats felt that if they just held their ground and rode out the storm, they could weather four years of GOP rule and if a Democrat won in 2007, they'd be OK. So they continued to do things as they had always done, including looking to Democrats for hiring recommendations.
These Democrats, who owed their jobs and their promotions to party officials, continued to listen to those party officials. We've found that in many cases, the local Democrat county chair had more influence over who got a merit system job than did anyone in the Fletcher administration.
This angered a lot of local Republican officials, who had to hear the complaints from their friends, neighbors, relatives, and others. More than one prominent Republican was often heard to complain about how "they're still hiring too @*#% many Democrats." That certainly wasn't the fault of the Fletcher team, but instead of the entrenced Democratic bureaucracy, doing things they way they had always done and listening to the same old influences that have failed Kentucky so miserably over the past 40 years.
Now, the state job issue may not have been very important to Jack Richardson or party officials and leaders from some of the state's bigger counties, but you can bet it was a hot topic and very near and dear to the hearts of party principals and activists in at least 90 of our 120 counties. In some of the rural counties, jobs are scarce. State jobs are considered plums. The pay not be too great for some of the positions, but the insurance and other benefits -- not to mention the job security -- are far above many other jobs. To see Democrats continue to have the advantage in many of these counties, particularly ones with Republican voter majorities where the Democrat minority had ruled with an iron fist for years, was especially frustrating.
It's true that merit system hiring was frequently discussed at party meetings and on conference calls with the LINK staff and representatives, but compliance with the merit system was always stressed. Republican officials and county contacts were merely advised to find potential qualified state applicants, give them information on how and where to take the state merit system tests to get on job registers, and then possibly recommend a qualified employee if a vacancy occurred in their area. Never was non-compliance with KRS 18A ever mentioned as an option.
State law precludes politics as a reason for making personnel decisions, but nowhere is it made illegal to ensure that new employees have signed on to the administration's vision and goals for Kentucky. If you want to make Kentucky's resort parks self-sufficient and not have to be subsidized from the General Fund, then it makes little sense to hire a park manager who believes in pouring money into the operation of the lodge, dining room and campground. If you're trying to tighten restrictions when children are taken away from their parents (a very relevant point given the events of a couple of weeks ago), why would you want to hire someone who would take a kid out of its home at the first sign of a pop can lying in the floor and not thrown in the trash? And so on.
That is why the state attempted to centralize hiring through the Governor's Personnel Initiative. Hiring decisions being made by managers in the field were not in line with the administration's plans and goals, and as noted previously, were still being influenced by Democrat kingmakers who were reacting poorly to the reality that they'd lost power and were trying to cling to as much authority as they could. The personnel initiative certainly wasn't the "corrupt political scheme" that Greg Stumbo's persecution squad was trying to make it out to be. Instead, it was an attempt to get control of a system that was still being run by the Democrats even in a Republican governorship.
Far too many conservatives and Republicans have tried to paint this whole deal as "same game, different players" and have used it as evidence that Fletcher failed in his promise to clean up the mess in Frankfort. Not true; not true at all. The mess in Frankfort is, and is caused by, the entrenched Democrat interests that have done the same old thing for far too many years. They have never gotten positive results but they keep doing the same things in the same ways, expecting a different outcome. When those entrenched interests interfere with the agents of change sent by the electorate of this state to make a real difference, they need to be dealt with.
We agree that some within the administration got a little overzealous in how they were trying to enact change, but we never felt their conduct rose to the level of misdemeanor criminal activity. That's why we don't fault Ernie Fletcher for this situation and we believe Stumbo's persecution was overkill. But we do think that the administration needed to get a handle on the hiring matter and stop the ongoing Democrat patronage operation that was running full-steam-ahead in the middle of a Republican administration.
Oh, and one other thing. Technically, everyone who makes it onto a state merit register is considered qualified for the job. If a Democrat tries to tell you that the Fletcher adminstration was hiring unqualified people for political reasons, laugh in their face. You have to be in the top five scores to be placed on a register, and vacancies have to be filled from a register. So to say that this adminstration hired unqualified applicants is to tell a blatant lie.
We know this has been long, but we hope it's been informative. We don't have any high hopes that it will make anyone see this situation in a different light, but at least the truth is now out there among all the falsehoods.