Beshear throws the baby out with the leftover concrete
We're scratching our heads over the decision late this afternoon by Gov. Beshear and Transportation Secretary Joe Prather to throw Gilbert Newman, state highway engineer, and assistant Bill Gulick overboard.
The gist of the story is that the state plans to widen a section of road in Franklin County that runs by a piece of property of which Newman is a co-owner. Newman disclosed his ownership of the property when he was hired by the fledgling administration late last year.
Gulick, an on-again, off-again Transportation employee who actually has an engineering award named for him, previously worked for the consultants involved in designing the project before he came back to state government under Beshear.
Despite the total compliance of Newman and Gulick with all applicable ethics laws, a Transportation auditor still found fault with them. They subsequently resigned, although this has all the markings of a forced resignation. In fact, that's exactly what the PolWatchers headline calls this.
The press release announcing the "resignations" was sent out by Transportation shortly before 4:30, followed immediately by a statement from Beshear's press office. Both Prather and Beshear expressed platitudes about "higher standards" in their statements.
We've been highly critical of the Beshear/Prather Transportation Cabinet on many things, especially the district reorganization and the major cutbacks in highway projects. Newman and Gulick, Gulick in particular, were the daddies of the so-called "Practical Solutions" initiative that will set back highway construction in this state 50 years. Still, they committed no crime, were open and honest about their involvement in a project that began before they came back to work for state government, and they didn't deserve to be canned. This is certainly an overreaction on Beshear's part, and an unnecessary one at that, since Newman and Gulick didn't gain any personal or financial benefits from the highway project.
Make no mistake, we're glad to see Gulick and Newman gone, but it shouldn't have happened in this manner.
If Beshear is so concerned about a new day and a new atmosphere in state government, why does his old law firm (Stites & Harbison) continue to get state contracts? Isn't that more of a conflict than this deal with Newman and Gulick?
(And speaking of highway projects being cancelled, we heard this week that a long-planned project to connect a certain Republican county in east-central Kentucky to the Bluegrass region was cancelled. This project would have replaced an old, narrow bridge and a very dangerous stretch of highway that's been the site of several accidents, some fatal, over the years. It would have been a safety improvement as well as an economic development enhancement. A consultant was already working on plans and alternatives for routes and the contract was cancelled. Thank you, Beshear/Prather Transportation Cabinet, for another example of glowing incompetence).