Friday, September 16, 2005
Corruption in Kentucky: Republican Governor Ernie "Pardon Me" Fletcher plays the BLAME GAME.
September 15, 2005
Kentucky Governor Ousts 9 Officials as Scandal Widens
By JAMES DAO New York Times
Gov. Ernie Fletcher of Kentucky demanded the resignation of nine senior state officials yesterday, asked the chairman of the state Republican Party to step down and abolished a constituent service program in response to a widening investigation into patronage in his administration.
In a hastily called news conference in Frankfort, Mr. Fletcher, who in 2003 was elected Kentucky's first Republican governor in 32 years, asserted that the nine were "well intentioned" but might have been "too eager to please local political constituencies" in their hiring practices.
Since May, Attorney General Greg D. Stumbo, a Democrat, has been investigating accusations first raised by a state employee that the Fletcher administration, particularly the transportation department, had circumvented the state's merit system to hire political supporters of the governor.
A grand jury indicted nine people - including four of those removed yesterday - in the case, but late last month Mr. Fletcher issued a blanket pardon covering those nine and anyone else who might be indicted.
Mr. Fletcher's pardon did not cover himself, and Deputy Attorney General Pierce Whites said on Wednesday that "the door remains open" for the grand jury to indict the governor. The panel is expected to continue reviewing evidence, including internal e-mail messages from the governor's office, for several weeks longer.
The governor's office declined to explain the ouster of the five people who were not facing charges.
Mr. Whites said of the removals, "They know something we don't."