Monday, January 12, 2009

Stumbo victim nominated for state Senate seat

A lot of injustices were done during the two-year investigation of merit system hiring practices during Ernie Fletcher's term as governor. Greg Stumbo's inquisition ended up with a lot of innocent, public-minded people, carrying out the wishes of their constituents, being unfairly and wrongly branded as criminals. We find it unfortunate that the press never sought to make known the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, relying instead on Stumbo and his band of lackeys and sycophants to spoon-feed them distorted information designed to turn the tide of public opinion against the first GOP administration in a generation.

Lots of people were smeared during the Stumbo Inquisition --Bill Nighbert, Dick Murgatroyd, Vincent Fields, Daniel Groves, Fletcher himself and many others -- but perhaps none more so than Bowling Green attorney J. Marshall Hughes.

Hughes was one of Fletcher's local contact people. In fact, he was one of the more prominent ones in the entire state. Although he provided advice to the governor's staff on some pertinent local issues, including personnel recommendations, he was never employed by state government and thus never had the authority to hire or fire any state merit employee. Still, he was indicted by the grand jury for "political discrimination," whatever that means.

We're not sure how someone who didn't even work for state government and had no authority to hire or fire anyone could be indicted for breaking the state's merit system hiring laws, but apparently Stumbo's Dumbos thought so.

It was Hughes' indictment that pointed out just how hypocritical the whole personnel probe was. Never mind the fact that the Republicans were trying to dismantle a Democrat patronage system that had existed for years and local Democrat officials and mid-level Democrat loyalist merit system managers were still trying to operate in the Fletcher administration. Hughes was basically indicted for making employment recommendations -- the same thing Stumbo himself had done while a member of the House of Representatives, prior to being elected attorney general. If Hughes broke the law by making recommendations, then didn't Stumbo break the law in even greater fashion by writing his letters of recommendation to Paul Patton on House letterhead?

We still applaud Fletcher's pardons of all those indicted as a final resolution to an unfair and biased practice, but Hughes' indictment was a huge travesty of justice and his pardon was most definitely well-deserved.

Fast-forward to last week, when Republican officials in south-central Kentucky nominated Hughes to carry their party's banner in the special election to replace Brett Guthrie in the state Senate. Guthrie, of course, was elected to Congress to replace the now-retired Ron Lewis.

We're not sure if voters will hold Hughes' indictment against him, but we don't think they should, considering that it was flawed and the perfect example of hypocrisy. Many Kentuckians are belatedly beginning to see the Stumbo Inquisition for the partisan political exercise it was, and they're coming around to viewing many of the targets of the probe as innocent victims in Stumbo's political ploy.

Hughes has a long record of activism in the Republican Party. We know of no reason not to support him in the special election. A victory for him in the special election would be a great way for Kentuckians, including Bowling Green-area residents bitter over Stumbo's defeat of Jody Richards in the House speaker's race, to stick a figurative thumb in Stumbo's eye.

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