Campbellsville doctor sues over state Senate's refusal to reappoint him to Fish and Wildlife board

jbrammer@herald-leader.comApril 17, 2014 

FRANKFORT — A Campbellsville doctor is challenging the state Senate's failure to vote on his reappointment to the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Dr. James R. Angel, a urologist, lost his first battle in his lawsuit against Senate President Robert Stivers earlier this week, when Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd denied his request for a restraining order to require Stivers to take a vote on his confirmation — by either a full vote in the Senate or a vote in a Senate committee.

The nine commission members are nominated by the governor but must be confirmed by the Senate.

Angel said Thursday that he plans "at this time" to continue with the lawsuit even though this year's state legislative session ended at midnight Tuesday. His term expired at that time.

"The law says the Senate has to confirm these appointments. I think that means at least an up or down vote, and I never got that, and the president is responsible," Angel said.

If the courts eventually agree with him, Angel said, "The judge will have to decide the remedy. One possibility would for me to be reinstated to the commission and have the Senate vote on my confirmation when they meet again next year."

Angel said he didn't know whether the governor could reappoint him and let the Senate consider that next year.

Stivers' spokeswoman, Jodi Whitaker, said in an email message, "Dr. Angel went through the same vetting process as all of the other gubernatorial appointees, and the decision was made not to confirm his appointment. The governor was notified after the decision was made."

Senate Resolution 273, confirming the appointment of Angel to the commission to a term to expire Aug. 13, 2017, was introduced March 17 and sent two days later to the Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

No action was ever taken on it.

Angel filed a lawsuit Monday against Stivers, hoping that Senate action on the resolution would occur before Kentucky's 2014 General Assembly officially ended.

Angel was first appointed to the commission in 1989 by Gov. Wallace Wilkinson. Gov. Ernie Fletcher reappointed him to another four-year term in 2005, as did Gov. Steve Beshear in 2009 and last August.

In 2010, the state legislature imposed term limits on fish and wildlife commissioners, saying they could be reappointed only once.

Angel maintains that the law was not retroactive and did not block him from Beshear's last reappointment of him to the commission.

In his lawsuit, Angel said he supported the replacement of Jonathan Gassett as the department's commissioner and that the League of Kentucky Sportsmen supported Gassett and opposed him.

Gassett resigned last September amid controversies over his contract and agency spending. He was fined $7,500 last month after admitting to nine ethics violations.

The sportsmen's league did urge the Senate to reject the confirmation of Angel, but Angel said sportsmen in his district strongly supported him.

Angel presented to the Senate the signatures of more than 1,850 adults in his district who wanted him on the commission. His district consists of Adair, Barren, Cumberland, Edmonson, Grayson, Green, Hardin, Hart, LaRue, Marion, Metcalfe, Monroe, Nelson, Taylor and Washington counties.

Jack Brammer: (859) 231-1302. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

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