Friday, May 12, 2006

Kentucky Governor Fletcher Indicted

A long-running grand jury investigation into corruption in Kentucky has snared a big fish.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher was indicted yesterday on three misdemeanor counts alleging that he directed an illegal conspiracy to place his political allies in state jobs at the expense of those who might oppose him.

He is the first Republican governor since 1971 and the first of either party in Kentucky to be indicted. He entered office in 2003 on a pledge to cut "waste, fraud and abuse" in state government.

The indictments charge Fletcher with one count each of criminal conspiracy, first-degree official misconduct and violating the prohibition against political discrimination.

Fletcher's attempt to clean up government included pardoning many of his political associates:

Fletcher is the 14th person indicted by the grand jury, which for the past year has been investigating allegations of political patronage in his administration. All but Fletcher are covered by a pardon order he issued Aug. 29.

Fletcher is claiming partisan political motivation on the part of the prosecutor. Normally, such a charge would be worthy of contempt, but in this case, a jury dealing with the facts might have a hard time ignoring Fletcher's claim:

His office filed a motion in Franklin Circuit Court seeking to disqualify Democratic Attorney General Greg Stumbo and his office from the case. The motion says Stumbo wants to run against Fletcher and therefore has a conflict of interest...

The indictment also charges Fletcher perpetrated the conspiracy by making "repeated public statements" denying any conspiracy and saying publicly that his internal investigation into the allegations at the Transportation Cabinet revealed no merit system abuses occurred...

Fletcher, interviewed at the Frankfort airport yesterday, said he had "no intention" of pardoning himself.

In a comment, the governor "compared the indictments to "noodling," the sport of catching fish by hand, without a hook and bait."

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