Democrat From Kentucky

Democrat from Kentucky
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Fletcher's Firings Continue Saturday, October 15, 2005

A friend of mine, Elizabeth Beardsley, put together a fine article for the Courier-Journal. Here's an excerpt:

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Newly filed court documents show Fletcher administration aides wanted to fire the director of the state Personnel Board and get agency hearing officers to "look at life correctly."

Gov. Ernie Fletcher has maintained since the merit hiring investigation began that the Personnel Board, a quasi-independent state agency, is a more appropriate place than the courts to resolve personnel disputes.

In a January e-mail, then-Homeland Security Director Keith Hall, who previously served as a Fletcher personnel official, said he wanted control over the flow of state employee grievances to prevent them from reaching the full board.

At the time, Fletcher had recently installed John Chowning, his own appointee, as board chairman.

Hall also pushed to fire the board's executive director, Mark Sipek, whom Hall noted "controls the hearing officers." Hall suggested "recommending the governor direct John to get rid of him asap."

"The whole point of having the chairmanship is so Chowning can ensure those hearing officers look at life correctly," Hall wrote to Teresa Hill, then a Commerce Cabinet official. "If these things end up at the full board then it just becomes a spectacle as you know."

The e-mail was included in an affidavit filed yesterday outlining the probable cause for Attorney General Greg Stumbo's investigators to obtain a search warrant. It was served yesterday on Personnel Secretary Erwin Roberts' office.

Fletcher spokeswoman Jodi Whitaker issued a statement that did not address the contents of the affidavit.

"From the beginning of this administration, Gov. Fletcher has always wanted personnel decisions made appropriately and consistent with the law," the statement said. "He wants things done right."

She declined to elaborate.

Fletcher demanded Hall's resignation earlier this year. Neither Hall nor Hill could be reached yesterday.

Sipek, who is still in the job, said in an interview yesterday that the e-mail was "troubling" and that the board's most important feature is its independence.

"If you have somebody trying to influence board members to say, 'Here's the results we want,' I think then that's a problem and that's not a way to get a good strong merit system," Sipek said.

Chowning, who left the board in July and is now an administrator at Campbellsville University, said he heard from Hall and Hill about Sipek and the board's role.

Chowning said the board put a formal evaluation system in place for Sipek that will include a review in January. Chowning also said he was satisfied that hearing officers were randomly selected and did not interfere with that procedure.

The board was "an independent group of people trying to do their very best," Chowning said. "As far as a group of political lackeys, I did not find that in my 11 months."

Stumbo's office declined to comment on matters relating to the search and affidavit.


Really, this just goes to show that Fletcher is just a chip off the old Bush block. They were in such a hurry to consolidate power that they totally disregarded any semblance of legality and it's continuing to show. The grand jury was still active yesterday and will continue for a while I think. I just hope the Democrats can capitalize on this so the Republicans can be diminished in their effective capacity.

posted by Stithmeister @ 1:01 PM

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Location: Harrodsburg, Kentucky, United States

I'm currently working in the telecomm industry but one of my passions is still politics.

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