FRANKFORT — Two state workers were fired in early May after telling investigators that they had sex with a prison inmate who was performing janitorial work at the Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction, according to state records. The illicit encounters sometimes happened in a janitor closet during the employees' breaks.
The Office of Inspector General for the state Public Protection Cabinet asked Franklin Commonwealth's Attorney Larry Cleveland and the Executive Branch Ethics Commission on May 17 to review its report, dated March 28, on the activities of merit employees Scarlett Perry and Dawna King.
The women could have faced charges of third-degree rape, which state law says occurs when a person who is incarcerated and works for a state agency is subjected to sexual intercourse. Cleveland said Friday that he would not pursue charges because he did not think a grand jury or a judge would agree to the prosecution.
Inspector General Alan C. Wagers also found that another employee, Benjamin Lawyer, failed to properly supervise the inmate and allowed him to access pornographic material that the inmate viewed while at work.
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In a separate report dated the same day, Wagers detailed his investigation of allegations that moonshine was repeatedly brought to the department and that department workers improperly sold copper fittings that plumbers use when taking exams.
The inspector general's office did not substantiate the moonshine allegations. It did make several recommendations regarding the plumbing materials, such as logging and storing cash from them and documenting on a daily log all purchases made with the cash.
The Lexington Herald-Leader obtained copies of the inspector general's reports and other accompanying documents through a request under the state Open Records Act.
The ethics commission said it could neither confirm nor deny an investigation. Perry, King and Lawyer could not be reached Friday for comment.
State records show the investigation of Perry and King began when the Franklin County Regional Jail intercepted a sexually graphic letter from the inmate to Perry. Investigators found that Perry had visited the inmate 10 times at the jail.
An investigator with the jail concluded that "there is clear evidence of an inappropriate intimate relationship" between department employees and the inmate, and "there is clear evidence of the Housing Division job site failing to properly monitor inmate actions while in their custody."
In an interview with Perry on Jan. 6, inspector general investigators found that Perry, who had worked at the housing department as a temporary employee since 2006 and a full-time employee since 2009 or 2010, had known the inmate for three years.
Officials at the jail said they could not comment on the allegations or name the inmate. The inmate's name was deleted from the OIG's report because he is "considered a victim of a possible crime," said Dick Brown, spokesman for the Public Protection Cabinet.
Perry, an administrative specialist who made $25,277 a year, admitted to investigators that she'd had sex with the inmate three times in the janitor's closet, according to the report. King, an administrative specialist who made $39,211 a year, said she'd had sex with the inmate twice in the closet, the report said.
The inspector general said Jerry T. Lunsford, who was commissioner of the housing department at the time, and other housing officials were notified by the jail on Dec. 20 of allegations concerning sexual liaisons between the inmate and department employees. However, Lunsford did not contact his superiors at the cabinet about the allegations until two days later.
"We take seriously any allegations in any of our agencies, and feel quite strongly that the cabinet needs to know about them immediately so the cabinet can take proper action," Brown said.
Lunsford could not be reached for comment.
Gov. Steve Beshear appointed Lunsford, a Frankfort building contractor and a business partner of former Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, to the position in February 2011.
Lunsford resigned the post on March 15 to take a job the next day as a division director in the Finance and Administration Cabinet's Department for Facilities and Support Services. His annual salary dropped from $94,500 to $75,000.
State officials declined to say why Lunsford changed jobs.
Lunsford was arrested earlier this month for driving under the influence seven minutes after leaving work at 10:30 a.m. Lunsford told the arresting officer that he had taken oxycodone earlier in the morning for broken ribs, according to the citation.
He is to be arraigned May 31 in Franklin District Court. He remains employed by the state.
Beshear spokeswoman Kerri Richardson declined to comment about Lunsford and his former co-workers in the housing department, saying the governor's office does not comment on personnel matters.
In addition to firing Perry and King, cabinet officials suspended Lawyer, the housing department executive secretary, who allowed the inmate access to pornography.
He was suspended for five working days without pay in April for failure to properly supervise the inmate, and "allowing him access and opportunity to engage in multiple sexual encounters on department grounds during the fall of 2011," according to a suspension letter written by Holly McCoy-Johnson of the Public Protection Cabinet.
The letter also said Lawyer admitted to bringing a box containing pornographic materials, including magazines and DVDs, into the department's building and storing them in the room where he and the inmate worked. The box contained movies with titles such as Lewd Conduct and Slut School.
"Your failure to adequately supervise inmate gave him access to the pornography that he then viewed on state equipment," the suspension letter said.
Lawyer told investigators that another co-worker had given him the box of pornographic material because the co-worker was moving and didn't want his wife or in-laws to see the material. Lawyer said he originally put the box in his car but later decided to bring it inside because he did not want the material in his car, according to the OIG report.
Brown said Lawyer, a non-merit, or politically appointed, employee, is back on the job. He also said the department no longer uses inmates for help. It had three, who each were paid $3.95 a day for at least six hours of work.
Brown said new housing commissioner Ambrose Wilson and deputy commissioner Jack Coleman, a former state representative from Burgin, have begun retraining employees on cabinet policies and procedures.
"We feel very comfortable with their leadership and how things are moving forward," he said.