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*in my best Gomer Pyle* SURPRISE! SURPRISE! SURPRISE! The forthright panel put together at the behest of the right honorable Governor Ernie Fletcher to investigate ways to improve the state merit system recommends decriminalizing violations of said rules. I don't wish to step on the toes of my cynical friends but... WOW... this is just so UNEXPECTED? Here's the story from the AP Wire by my dapper pal Joe Biesk:
Panel proposals include decriminalizing Merit System violations
JOE BIESK - Associated Press
FRANKFORT, Ky. - Gov. Ernie Fletcher's Merit System task force announced Wednesday it is considering decriminalizing portions of state personnel laws, under which nine members of the administration were indicted on misdemeanors.
Panel members outlined 26 preliminary proposals to change the state Merit System, including a plan to make state employees undergo drug testing both before and during their state employment. The panel's final vote on the proposals was scheduled for next month.
Attorney General Greg Stumbo's ongoing personnel investigation, which has stymied the Fletcher administration since May, has been at the center of the task force's work.
Stumbo, who had been appointed to the task force, resigned from it last month after questioning its legitimacy. Deputy Attorney General Pierce Whites said the panel's preliminary recommendations would be a "step backward for Kentucky."
"It's a mistake to decriminalize someone's civil rights," Whites said Wednesday.
The state Merit System was created in 1960 and designed to insulate rank-and-file state employees from political influence.
A Franklin County special grand jury indicted nine current or former administration officials on misdemeanors stemming from the investigation; Fletcher subsequently pardoned them. Last week, Fletcher fired nine members of his administration - four of whom received pardons - for their role in his administration's hiring practices.
State Sen. Dan Kelly, R-Springfield, said removing the threat of criminal prosecution would make it more practical for enforcement.
Based on testimony from task force consultants and state employees, it would be difficult to remove politics from the personnel system, Kelly said. Instead, it's more important to hire qualified candidates and protect them from being arbitrarily fired, he said.
"What we're recommending is sound, and in fact would allow a greater deterrent because it could be more effectively implemented," Kelly said.
Violators would face a fine and the loss of their state employment for five years under the proposal. The state Personnel Board would review allegations and forward them to the attorney general under the plan.
Personnel Cabinet Secretary Erwin Roberts, who headed the task force, said based on the testimony, "patronage is kind of part and parcel" to government hiring.
"It would be almost impossible to have a 100 percent guarantee of no influence in the Merit System," Roberts said.
Bill Lear, a Lexington attorney and panelist, said he didn't see any recommendations that would remove political influence.
"I assumed one of the things that we were going to try to do is adopt some reforms that would make it more difficult," Lear said.
State Rep. Mike Cherry, D-Princeton, said he was "leery" of the idea and would study it further.
"I don't want to weaken the penalties for misuse of the Merit System, period," Cherry said.
Charles Wells, director of the Kentucky Association of State Employees, said the proposal would hurt government workers. Wells said he would oppose them in the General Assembly.
"It's a bad idea," Wells said.
Among other things, the recommendations would also:
_Allow for an affirmative action program.
_Give state employees optional 40-hour work weeks.
_Prohibit "burrowing" by requiring people who switch from non-merit to merit status to undergo a one-year probationary period.
_Offer employees mediation in job disputes.
_Reduce the number of job classifications.
_Encourage personnel disputes to be resolved before going to the Personnel Board.
When Fletcher opened the panel's first meeting, he said he wanted it to propose changes that would protect state workers and ensure governors could "advance his or her vision."
Fletcher spokeswoman Jodi Whitaker said Fletcher had not reviewed the proposals.
"The governor wants the Merit System law improved, and he will await the final recommendations of the task force and evaluate those when they're received," Whitaker said.
This whole panel is a flim flam. No wonder Stumbo resigned. I doubt they did much in the way of a study. They're just doing what their told. But, I guess I'm not surprised and honestly, this is really kind of minor compared to the violations the governor and his cronies have been accused of. I feel for sure they did it but they'll never get a fair trial. And there's my glorious senator and floor majority leader Dan Kelly. Unfortunately, the man is actually my personal senator. It makes me ashamed to know that Dan Kelly is in the office. He's got to be removed.
posted by Stithmeister @ 10:16 PM
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