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City Hall crew may turn off '06 voters
Quoted in a recent article about the 2006 mayor's race, former Lexington Mayor Pam Miller was spot-on in her assessment of voter disenchantment: "There's a lot of dissatisfaction with City Hall that's widespread with the mayor, vice mayor and council." In fact, the more you see of the current City Hall crew, the worse things look. The Mike-alikes' agenda focuses not so much on how to move Lexington forward as on how to distribute the spoils of victory. How else to explain the peculiar Mike-alike fascination with the staffing of the council office?

Fletcher aide, 2 others charged

Gov. Ernie Fletcher's deputy chief of staff and two other administration officials were indicted yesterday on charges alleging they illegally filled rank-and-file state jobs based on politics, not qualifications. The cases marked the second time the Franklin County special grand jury has returned indictments since it was impaneled June 6 to investigate allegations of illegal hiring in the Transportation Cabinet. In a statement, Fletcher's office called the indictments "a travesty of justice."

Murgatroyd indicted
Last September, Dick Murgatroyd pounded out an e-mail inquiring about a job for Jamie Gray, who happens to be married to the sister of state Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, a Republican. "He needs a job paying $45,000," wrote Murgatroyd, a former Kenton County judge-executive who at the time was deputy secretary in the Transportation Cabinet. "...I'll have to get him in here."

In middle of political firestorm
After a narrow loss for a state Senate seat, Dick Murgatroyd needed a little prodding to run for the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1994. "I think he was ready, but he had to be pushed over the line to make him do it," recalled state Sen. Dick Roeding, R-Lakeside Park. "People had to tell him how much confidence they had in him knowing what a good job he would do." The Villa Hills Republican, then 56, won that race, and his political career was off and winging.

Voters to decide if Falls resort can sell alcohol 

A September referendum will decide the fate of an effort by a local businessman to sell wine and beer at a Cumberland Falls Resort.  Jimmy Vance, a local investor and owner of Eagle Falls Resort, said Tuesday that September 27 is the day McCreary County officials have set for an alcohol referendum in the precinct near Cumberland Falls State Park where the resort resides. 

Governor's deputy chief of staff among those indicted in hiring probe
A special grand jury investigating allegations of illegal hiring practices for state jobs on Wednesday indicted the governor's deputy chief of staff and two other officials on misdemeanor charges. It was the second time in less than a month that the grand jury investigating personnel practices in the administration of Gov. Ernie Fletcher returned indictments against administration officials.

Doerting's job was detecting misconduct
Doug-Doerting was a state bureaucrat's Detective Columbo -- unassuming to look at, but so relentless that he was the last guy you wanted checking your story if you lied. Doerting spent a decade looking into reports of employee misconduct as the investigator in the Transportation Cabinet's personnel office. Many of his cases -- forged timesheets, for example, or inappropriate Internet use -- were not a particularly big deal. A few were big enough to be passed on to prosecutors or even the FBI.

Investigators search office of Fletcher's former chief of staff

Investigators searched the office of Gov. Ernie Fletcher's former chief of staff on today, continuing the attorney general's probe into the administration's hiring practices of state employees. A search warrant was served at the Capitol office of Daniel Groves, now a senior adviser to Fletcher. Five investigators who said they were with the Kentucky Bureau of Investigation, an arm of Attorney General Greg Stumbo's office, left Groves' office carrying three boxes, a stack of flat cardboard boxes and what appeared to be a leather briefcase.

Madison panel critical of Pence comments about grand juries
Grand jurors in Madison County issued a report saying Lt. Gov. Steve Pence's remarks about grand juries "slightly insulted" them. Pence made his comments last month after three Transportation Cabient employees were indicted in Franklin County in connection with an employee's firing. Pence was downplaying the seriousness of the misdemeanor charges. "Most people do not know what goes on in a grand jury proceeding because they're secret," said Pence, who is also the state's Justice Cabinet secretary and a former federal prosecutor.

Isaac's job draws plenty of interest

It could be a crowded field in the 2006 race for Lexington mayor if everyone considering a run files by the Jan. 31 deadline. Incumbent Mayor Teresa Isaac has said she will seek re-election. With 16 months until general election day, one candidate, attorney Jim Newberry, has already raised more than $180,000 for the upcoming campaign -- eclipsing what Isaac raised for the entire primary in 2002. Another candidate, cigar store owner Charles Martin Jr., has thrown his hat into the ring.

Fletcher doesn't sway vets on jobs

Gov. Ernie Fletcher said yesterday it's an "outlandish" example of "bitter politics" for critics to claim that veterans lost legal hiring preferences when the state reclassified scores of civil service jobs. Fletcher's remarks, however, did not appease veterans, who demanded that he prove that they will continue to receive state hiring preferences under the new classifications.

GOP was wary of Dem holdovers, e-mails show
Republican officials in the Fletcher administration in some cases viewed workers hired during the days of Democratic reign with much skepticism, e-mails show. The latest batch of electronic messages made available in an investigation into illegal political patronage in the Transportation Cabinet show the careful eyes Republicans cast on those associated with Democratic administrations from years past.

POLL: How has your opinion of Gov. Ernie Fletcher been affected by records uncovered during the investigation into his administration's hiring practices?

Hiring changes upset veterans
Military veterans and their advocates are angry that Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration is gradually dropping a state hiring method that gives preference to veterans. The Personnel Cabinet has reclassified 132 merit job categories since Fletcher took office so applicants no longer have to be tested, scored and ranked in the top five to be considered. Instead, the state is moving toward a method by which any applicant who meets minimum qualifications may be hired in those categories.

Grant notes political aide's OK

A state letter awarding Anderson County a Homeland Security grant was routine -- except for a handwritten note that said Gov. Ernie Fletcher's adviser on political appointments had given his approval. After Auditor Crit Luallen was shown the letter by The Courier-Journal, she said yesterday that it will intensify her review into whether politics has interfered with the distribution of federal homeland security money.

Davis supports Bush war plan
The war on terror and the military effort in Iraq are moving in the right direction, U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis said Tuesday in response to President Bush's message to drum up support for the war effort. The U.S. goal from the outset was to train Iraq to stand on its own, said Davis, R-Ky., of Hebron. Since the Iraqi government came to power a year ago, more than eight million people have voted in free elections, the Iraqis have started writing a constitution, and they have taken control of their own security forces - in a country where a system of protecting citizens has never existed, Davis said.

Fletcher tells docs he'll try to cut insurance rates
When he was a practicing physician, Dr. Ernie Fletcher's patients numbered in the thousands. Now, Gov. Ernie Fletcher says he has about 4 million patients - everyone who lives in Kentucky. The doctor's No. 1 prescription for his patients, health-care-wise, is tort reform. Fletcher told a meeting of the Northern Kentucky Medical Society on Tuesday that he'll try to cure rising malpractice insurance rates during the next session of the General Assembly.

House approves Davis' first bill

U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis has passed something of a milestone in his nascent congressional career: The House voted 405-2 on Tuesday to approve his first bill.The legislation, which Davis introduced in February, is designed to protect American troops from companies or individuals looking to sell them risky financial plans, such as expensive life insurance, mutual funds and other bad investments.

Democrats: Replace vote hauling with transit

Paid vote hauling, long a loophole for campaign shenanigans, should be replaced with public transportation for those who cannot otherwise make it to the polls to vote, a Kentucky Democratic Party operative said Tuesday.  Vote hauling is the practice of paying people to drive themselves or others to the polls. In some areas, it has long been seen as a way to pay people for their votes.

Political 'hit list' released
The man whose delivery of documents to the attorney general's office started the investigation of personnel practices in Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration was targeted for a transfer, according to a "hit list" unsealed by a court on Monday.  Doug Doerting, who was in the Transportation Cabinet's Office of Personnel Management, was the target of some complaints from constituents, "antagonistic, biased; perceived as unfair" and he was a Democrat, the list explained. Doerting should be transferred and likely would retire as a result, it went on.

Commerce Secretary Host: Fletcher will be cleared of hiring allegations
Commerce Secretary Jim Host said he is confident Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration will be cleared.

Sen. McConnell hits Republican record

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., passed Sen. John Sherman Cooper as the longest serving Republican senator in Kentucky history.  McConnell said Tuesday he couldn’t have achieved the feat without two groups of people.  “Whatever success I’ve had has been dependent on the citizens of this great state and my colleagues in the Senate,” he said during a conference call Tuesday afternoon. “It certainly is gratifying to have their support.”

Merit system inquiry expands
The attorney general's office has expanded its investigation into alleged illegal hiring by the Fletcher administration into the Justice and the Environmental and Public Protection cabinets. Until now, the attorney general's office had confirmed only that it was focusing on the Transportation Cabinet and Gov. Ernie Fletcher's office. But Attorney General Greg Stumbo said in a motion filed last week in federal court that a special grand jury has called environmental employees to testify about hiring practices and more likely will be subpoenaed.

Administration Hiccups on Personnel Counterattack

A counterattack by Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration on the political personnel controversy had a hiccup Tuesday when some personal information was temporarily available on the Internet. The target of the attack, Democratic state Auditor Crit Luallen, said the whole production showed a "lack of competence" on the part of the administration, which she called "the gang that couldn't shoot straight."

'They Did It Too' Doesn't Cut It

Seems the best defense the Fletcher administration can muster these days is a whiny, finger-pointing, they-did-it-too appeal to a standard of justice one might expect from ill-behaved 6-year-olds on a playground. Last week, the administration issued a press release alerting the media to its discovery of a document, "almost two inches thick," listing job postings in the Transportation Cabinet from 2001 to 2003.

Noted Kentucky Historian dies
Thomas Clark, a historian who lived long and came to be valued as a state treasure in Kentucky, died early today. He was 101. He would have been 102 on July 14. He died at 3:45 A.M. after a brief illness, said his stepson, Robert Brock. Dr. Clark was a native of Mississippi, but came to Kentucky as a young man and stayed for more than 75 years. He taught history at the University of Kentucky for 37 years, building a history department that developed a national reputation, especially in Southern history.

Two more cabinets subpoenaed in hiring probe

Employees of the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet have been subpoenaed to testify in the attorney general's probe into alleged illegal hiring, and a Justice Cabinet office has also received a subpoena related to Merit System workers. Attorney General Greg Stumbo filed a motion last week saying a special grand jury has called environmental employees to testify about hiring practices.

Memo: 32 targeted due to political ties

Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s administration had targeted 32 state transportation workers for firing or transfer partly because of their political ties, according to an April 18 memo unsealed in court today. The memo is the latest piece of evidence to emerge in the Attorney General’s investigation of whether the Fletcher administration used politics, not qualifications, to determine how to fill civil service jobs.

'Crit's List' came and went
A plan by Gov. Ernie Fletcher's office to combat the public relations nightmare that is the Merit System investigation stumbled this week. This timeline attempts to explain how the plan, referred to as "Crit's List," became "Fletcher's Flub." Tuesday, 12:21 p.m. - The governor's communications office issues a press release titled: "Governor's office discovers Crit's List."

Records show Democrats rejected for jobs
Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration investigated some applicants for merit jobs to determine their political loyalty, then acted against Democrats, according to internal rec-ords filed in court Friday. In one case, an applicant had Democratic bumper stickers, which was noted next to his name on a list of job seekers. In another, Fletcher aides dropped the recommended candidate for a job when they uncovered his donations to the campaigns of Democratic Gov. Paul Patton and Ben Chandler, the Democrat who lost to Fletcher in 2003.

Patronage representatives for Jessamine say they didn't suggest hirings

Two local representatives of a state program to establish Gov. Ernie Fletcher's connections in Jessamine County said they never made state job recommendations, although they were told they had the ability to do so by Fletcher's administration. The hiring practices within the administration have come under fire after Doug Doerting, a former employee of the Transportation Cabinet, sent a 288-page complaint to the state Attorney General's Office claiming politics influenced hiring and promotions among state personnel.

Former state senator dies in car accident after beginning campaign

A former Kentucky state senator whose brother and father once owned The Jessamine Journal has died at the age of 65 -- just as he was about to re-enter politics in West Virginia. Tom Easterly was killed in a car accident June 15 on I-64 near Hurricane, W. Va. He had recently filed to run for Congress against incumbent U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall in that state's Democratic primary.

7 more appear before grand jury
Top aides to Gov. Ernie Fletcher -- Chief of Staff Stan Cave and former Chief of Staff Daniel Groves -- and state Republican Party Chairman Darrell Brock appeared briefly yesterday before a special grand jury investigating personnel action in the Fletcher administration. Cave and Groves are the closest advisers to the governor to appear before the grand jury that was impaneled June 6 and is to be in recess until July 5-6.

TV coverage of hiring inquiry all over the dial

The investigation of hiring practices in Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration has maintained a steady presence on the front pages of newspapers, but there's been a marked disparity in time and attention the story has received on Lexington television stations. "I'm the first to admit that covering Frankfort is not good television," says WKYT (Channel 27) Frankfort bureau chief Barry Peel. "It just isn't, and I don't think there's any way to make it good television, I mean colorful, dramatic, action-packed video.

Lambert's new chief of staff had opinionated blog
A lawyer who is Chief Justice Joseph Lambert's new chief of staff and general counsel posted a personal blog on the Internet last year, outlining his personal opinions about Democrats, gay marriage and other subjects. In his new position, Jason Nemes, 27, a former Republican congressional aide, will help the chief justice as he operates the statewide courts system and issues opinions that define Kentucky law.

Paducah's Barlow plans to run for Congress again

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Barlow says he will make a third stab at regaining the congressional seat he lost ...

GOP treasurer Disponett gives up his Capitol office

Kentucky Republican Party treasurer Dave Disponett has moved out of his Capitol office. Disponett had the office on the Capitol's first floor with the services of a state-paid secretary, even though he had no state title, salary or official job description. Administration officials said Disponett interviewed applicants for political jobs and board appointments, and handled special assignments for Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

Poll: 2008 Presidential Election
On the right hand column

Luallen: Records show no role in merit hiring

The Fletcher administration released nearly 400 pages of records yesterday that it claims show involvement by former Gov. Paul Patton's office in hiring state civil-service workers. But the key official identified in a statement accompanying the records said she never made merit system recommendations and said the Fletcher administration is making "a blatant attempt to distract people from a very serious investigation."

Panel OKs money for lawyers
A legislative panel has approved deals with outside lawyers that could total nearly $300,000 for representing Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration in the investigation of Merit System hiring. Several Democrats at the legislature's Government Contract Review Committee meeting Tuesday questioned whether the lawyers are necessary.

Murgatroyd returns to his duties

Dick Murgatroyd, deputy chief of staff to the governor, returned to work this week following a three-week bout with a respiratory infection. Fletcher spokesman Mike Goins said Murgatroyd, who has been absent from work since his May 26 return from an economic development trip to Japan, is now back to his regular duties. While in the Far East with Gov. Ernie Fletcher, Democrat Attorney General Greg Stumbo began investigating if officials in the Fletcher administration violated state merit law by filling those jobs with people who were politically connected.

Fletcher: Democrats did it, too
Gov. Ernie Fletcher's office for the second time in three days has released documents it claims show the Patton administration engaged in similar practices of recommending people for merit jobs. The latest to be released by Fletcher's office are pages of documents that show a listing of merit system transportation job postings with the name "Crit" written next to many of the postings. "Crit" refers to Democrat State Auditor Crit Luallen, who during much of the Patton administration worked as secretary of the governor's executive cabinet.

Lewis: Keep full hospital at Fort Knox
With few exceptions, a congressman expressed satisfaction yesterday with how Kentucky was treated when the Pentagon outlined plans to reshape military installations. But it was those exceptions that U.S. Rep. Ron Lewis stressed while speaking to members of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission during a regional hearing. Lewis headed a Kentucky delegation that included retired Brig. Gen. James E. Shane Jr., executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs, and local officials.

Grand jury hears 3 more state workers
A former receptionist for Gov. Ernie Fletcher and two state computer officials appeared yesterday before a special Franklin County grand jury investigating personnel decisions in the Fletcher administration. Assistant Attorney General Scott Crawford-Sutherland, who is leading the grand jury, said he is pleased with its progress. It has called 23 witnesses in five days of meetings and has indicted three Transportation Cabinet officials on misdemeanor charges. It is to resume its work Thursday.

Electioneering ban among new laws
Electioneering is now banned within 300 feet of Kentucky polling places, under one of 158 state laws enacted this year by the General Assembly that took effect yesterday. Other new laws eliminate the state's program of partial public financing of gubernatorial campaigns and make milk the official state beverage. Also, in a move to crack down on methamphetamine manufacturing, people now must show photo identification and sign a log when buying cold and allergy medication containing pseudoephedrine. It is a key ingredient of meth.

Bean Fest Booking Ballyhoo

There's a buzz emanating from a state-owned resort on the other side of the state that's so loud it can be heard in Northern Kentucky. Time will tell whether it's also being heard by the special grand jury in Frankfort that's looking into claims of politically motivated hiring and firing within the state merit system. At this point, no one outside the Parks Department-and perhaps the Kentucky Attorney General's office, which has seized reams of records on tips from whistleblowers-can say whether there's evidence that a veteran hotel manager was removed as manager of Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park in favor of someone with stronger Republican connections.

State government still churning, despite personnel investigation

While an ongoing attorney general's investigation into Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration's hiring practices occupies some attorneys and information technology employees, state government seems to be plugging away at its usual pace. Taxes are still being collected, checks are still going out and roads are still being built. Even the state attorney general's office is still going about its other business - such as monitoring consumer fraud, investigating drug dealers and rendering open records opinions.

Barriers lowered for state jobs
Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration has quietly changed the state's merit system so it can fill thousands of rank-and-file jobs with anyone it prefers, rather than those ranked as the best qualified. The administration is moving away from methods that required job applicants to be tested, scored and ranked in the top five just to be considered. Last week, personnel officials said the move is long overdue, and it will make hiring more flexible for state agencies.

Democrats rally for future elections
In an off election year, area Democrats used their annual dinner to make their rally cry heard as they gear up for local campaigns in 2006 and even for the governor's race in 2007. State Sen. Daniel Mongiardo, Speaker of the House Jody Richards, Treasurer Jonathan Miller and Attorney General Greg Stumbo set the stage for keynote speaker state Sen. Julian Carroll, also a former Kentucky governor, Friday night during the annual Purchase Area Jefferson Jackson Dinner at the Curris Center Ballroom.

Sen. McConnell said to be positioned to succeed Frist
It's still a while, probably the end of next year, before Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., is expected to step aside for retirement from the Senate and a run for the presidency in 2008. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the majority whip, is campaigning among his GOP colleagues to succeed Frist as majority leader, and it's going pretty well. Actually, the race already is over, according to Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, who is chief deputy majority whip and McConnell's campaign manager for the top Senate post.

Board supports Stumbo's probe

The state Personnel Board has asked that Attorney General Greg Stumbo continue his investigation of illegal political patronage in the Transportation Cabinet. The board, which oversees the state's Merit System, voted unanimously on the motion at its monthly meeting Friday. It also agreed to continue its own investigation and denied a request from the cabinet to clarify the statute under which officials there have been indicted.

Governor Calls Indictments Political

Governor Ernie Fletcher said Wednesday the indictment of three top officials in the Transportation Cabinet was politically motivated and contains factual errors. Fletcher continued his administration's attack on Attorney General Greg Stumbo, whose office began the investigation after a Transportation employee presented stacks of documents about political influence in personnel decisions. 

New general counsel appointed by governor
Jim Deckard, chief of staff for Kentucky Chief Justice Joseph Lambert, was appointed yesterday to succeed John Roach as Gov. Ernie Fletcher's general counsel. Deckard is scheduled to start work for the Fletcher administration on Monday. "Being the governor's lawyer is an honor that any lawyer would aspire to," Deckard told reporters outside the Capitol. "I am humbled that I have been given this opportunity.

Kentuckian died in 'fight for freedom'
Numbed to the dangers of war, Kentucky Army National Guard Spc. Michael Ray Hayes lived to see smiling Iraqi children rushing to newly built schoolhouses, books tucked under their arms, his fiancée said.  Hayes' love of children followed him from Butler County's soccer fields, where he was coach, to the battlefields of Iraq, where he was killed Tuesday by a rocket-propelled grenade near Baghdad.

Attorney general asking to search Hall's office
The attorney general's office said in a letter to Lt. Gov. Steve Pence earlier this week that it has "probable cause to believe that there is evidence of criminal activity" contained in the office of Keith Hall, who resigned abruptly last week. Pence has denied that Hall was involved in anything illegal. But administration officials have refused to disclose the reasons for his departure. Hall, who was homeland security office director, has not returned phone calls.

Fletcher's executive assistant goes before grand jury
Gov. Ern-ie Fletcher's executive assistant, Crystal Murray Ducker, testified for more than 90 minutes yesterday before a special Franklin County grand jury investigating personnel action in the Fletcher administration. Ducker's attorney, Michael R. Mazzoli of Louisville, said his client has not seen any violations of the state merit law, which requires that rank-and-file state employees be hired on qualifications and not political influence.

Fletcher aide testifies before grand jury
Gov. Ernie Fletcher's executive assistant testified before a special grand jury on Thursday that's investigating allegations that the administration allowed politics to improperly influence hiring. Crystal Murray Ducker was before jurors for 93 minutes answering questions. She declined comment afterward, but her attorney said Ducker's testimony would give the jury a more accurate representation of how the Fletcher administration works.

Rep. Davis reports assets, liabilities in financial disclosure

Congressman Geoff Davis reported assets totaling $60,000 to $250,000 in financial disclosure statements made public Wednesday. The reports, which members of Congress must file annually, give Americans a general picture of the wealth of their lawmakers. The documents show what the lawmakers own and are owed, as well as the income they receive outside of their congressional activities.