Kent Downey, a former state legislative aide who was at the center of a sex and gambling scandal, has died. He was 66.
Downey, a native of Versailles, died June 7. He had been in ill health for the last few years.
Downey was director of operations for the Kentucky House of Representatives when he pleaded guilty in 1997 to federal charges of promoting prostitution and illegal gambling, sometimes from his Capitol office. He was sentenced in August 1998 to three years’ probation.
He pleaded guilty to two conspiracy charges related to his business, Entertainment Outings Ltd., which organized golf outings with hostesses in various stages of undress.
Downey’s partner in the company, Witt Wisman, pleaded guilty to a related perjury charge. Wisman’s attorney acknowledged there was improper behavior at the outings, including men paying women to engage in sex. Wisman was sentenced to two years’ probation.
“Kent used very poor judgment but somehow his problems matured him and, I believe, gave him more wisdom,” said Tony Wilhoit of Versailles, who was head of the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission from November 1997 to 2015.
Wilhoit said his commission had to investigate aftereffects of Downey’s legislative scandal.
“He had every reason never to speak to me after that but we got to know each other much better after that,” said Wilhoit. “He was a bright, gregarious fellow who loved to talk, especially about politics. He admitted his wrongdoing and got on with his life. He’s got hundreds of friends in this community today.”
Gregg Turner, a state employee from Versailles who said he is a friend of the Downey family, said Downey should be remembered for the things he did to help others, not the mistakes he made nearly 20 years ago.
“Kent Downey would give you the shirt off his back,” Turner said. “He would help anyone who needs help.”
After leaving the LRC, Downey worked for a few years with the Woodford County Road Department.
A graduate of the University of Louisville, Downey participated in several clubs and organizations, including the Woodford County Jaycees.
A lifelong Woodford County Democrat, Downey spent most of his youth and adult life working for and managing several successful statewide and local campaigns.
In addition to his wife, Sandy, Downey is survived by his children, William (Emily) Downey and Meredith Downey, both of Versailles.
A gathering of family and friends is scheduled Monday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Clark Legacy Center, 3000 Versailles Road in Frankfort.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Gary C. Jones Community Scholarship, 142 Broadway, Versailles, Ky., 40383.