FRANKFORT — A state ethics panel cleared former Gov. Paul Patton to serve simultaneously as president of an Eastern Kentucky college and chairman of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, which oversees the state's higher education system.
The Executive Branch Ethics Commission, in a 3-0 opinion, voted Friday to allow Patton to continue to serve on the council and retain his position as chairman.
Patton would be asked to recuse himself from any decisions regarding Pikeville College, according to a draft advisory opinion. Patton was appointed president of the college in August.
Patton was out of the office and not available for comment Friday.
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John Steffen, the executive director of the ethics commission, had originally advised that Patton should step down as chairman of the council, noting that as chairman he had the ability to appoint committees and had control over closed-door sessions where such things as investigations and other legal matters would be discussed.
Steffen said that in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety, it would be best for Patton not to serve in that capacity. Commission members ultimately disagreed.
Robert King, president of the Council on Postsecondary Education, said the chair is not powerful under the current makeup of the commission. King said key decisions, such as which universities or colleges can teach certain programs, are made by King, not the board.
Ethics commission member Ronald Green said dictating how the board should be run could fall outside of the ethics commission's purview and recommended that Patton stay on the board. If there are problems with his position as chair, he can recuse himself, Green said.
King said Friday that the board wanted to keep Patton on as chair because there were so many pending issues involving higher education in state government. Patton, a two-term governor, is well-known and respected by many in the legislature, King said.
One commission member, Jeanie Owen Miller, recused herself from the voting because her husband works in the state's university system.