Transportation investigation: Leaps of logic
Kentucky's media can't stop reporting, and Democrat bloggers can't stop commenting on, the FBI investigation into alleged bid-rigging in the Transportation Cabinet.
The big problem is that in what's being said, there's very little fact and a whole lot of speculation, conjecture, supposition, character assassination and other leaps of logic that have all but declared ex-Transportation Secretary Bill NIghbert guilty of all sorts of crimes against humanity.
It might be a good time to review the facts of this case and remind those who are rushing to judgment that they really should be careful to distinguish fact from fantasy.
As of now, the only fact of the case known to the public is that a career Transportation Cabinet employee has admitted taking money in exchange for providing confidential project estimates to a contractor who owns several paving companies that usually have no competition when they bid on blacktopping projects in various counties.
That's it. That's the sum total of the truth as it is so far known.
The engineer, Jim Rummage, says he was directed to obtain the confidential estimates both by contractor Leonard Lawson and by Nighbert. Nighbert's attorney has said that Nighbert wanted that information because he suspected -- rightly so, it tuns out -- that someone (Rummage) was leaking it to contractors.
Because of Rummage's statement that Nighbert asked him for some of the same type of information that he claims he was selling to Lawson, the FBI wants to look into the financial records of Nighbert's new employer to see if it's a front for Lawson.
So far there is no evidence that this is the case, save a statement Nighbert supposedly made in introducing of the principals in his new employer's company to Senate President David Williams that could be interpreted a million different ways; and Nighbert's comment as he left office that the Transportation Cabinet is best served if the secretary has a good relationship with Leonard Lawson.
Because of that, and because Nighbert worked for Williams' office with the Legislative Research Commission for a few months, Kentucky's biggest Democrat cheerleader blogger -- the new guy at bluegrassreport.org, whose name we can't recall and never heard of until he started writing there -- is trying his best to link Williams to any corruption at the Transportation Cabinet. And remember that right now, there's only one person there who's admitted to any wrongdoing.
If jumping to conclusions was an Olympic sport, two-thirds of Kentucky's media members, Democrat bloggers and frequent posters to those blogs would be in China now.
Our circle includes several people who know Bill NIghbert, both from his time as Transportation secretary and from his tenure as mayor of Williamsburg and his time as president of the Kentucky League of Cities. All agree that he is a fine, upstanding man of integrity and it's highly unlikely he had anything to do with any illegalities such as are being investigated. It's highly likely that the FBI investigation will show no criminal behavior in Nighbert's actions and the scope of the illegality will be limited to a longtime Democrat employee who got his job with Transportation under the time-honored patronage system that Nighbert was trying to clean up.
Affidavits of the type that stirred this feeding frenzy are normally kept sealed. There is all sorts of speculation as to who leaked this one, and why.
Of course where Republicans in general and the Ernie Fletcher administration in particular is involved, one shouldn't expect logic or restraint when it comes to the press or the Fletcher-hating Democrat bloggers and commenters. Speculation and innuendo are the order of the day;this bunch could take the statement, "the sky is blue," and turn it into a rant about how God hates red and all things even remotely crimson.
As for us, we're going to take the facts at face value. Jim Rummage is dirty, by his own admission, and that's all. We'll wait for more facts to emerge, and they'll have to be pretty convincing, before we pass judgment on anyone else.