FRANKFORT — A Legislative Research Commission employee who was fired in February after appearing in a video for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has landed a better-paying state job.
Charles Booker, who was making about $51,000 a year as an analyst for the Government Contract Review Committee in the legislative branch, started work April 1 as division director for administrative services in the state Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources for $68,500 a year.
The nonmerit position for Booker, 29, of Louisville, was approved March 12 by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and Personnel Secretary Tim Longmeyer at the request of Tourism, Arts and Heritage Secretary Robert Stewart.
Beshear's press secretary, Kerri Richardson, said in an email Wednesday that Beshear "played no role in Mr. Booker's new position at Fish and Wildlife."
Beshear must sign off on all nonmerit appointments. Nonmerit workers serve at the pleasure of the governor and are not covered by the merit system that protects employees from being dismissed for political reasons.
On his application for the state job, Booker listed three references — Delquan Dorsey, executive director of Beshear's Office of Minority Employment; Elizabeth Sawyer, executive director of Emerge Kentucky, a Louisville-based organization that urges Democratic women to run for public office; and Robert Haynes, executive director of Grimes' secretary of state office.
Dorsey and Sawyer did not return phone calls Wednesday seeking comment.
Haynes said Grimes was "not involved in any way" in helping Booker get his new job.
Haynes said he has known Booker for several years. Booker replaced him as a legislative aide to Louisville Councilman David Tandy in 2011, he said.
Haynes also said he learned from the governor's employment office that Booker was applying for a state job and "I told Charles he could use me as a reference. He's a good guy. I'm happy he's got a job."
Booker said he went through the normal application process to get the state job.
"I knew all three of my references before I lost my LRC job and I got no special advantage," he said.
Gil Lawson, a spokesman for the Tourism Cabinet, which oversees the Fish and Wildlife department, said the position was posted as required by state law. He said several others applied for the job, but he declined to identify them.
Booker "was hired based on his qualifications and experiences," Lawson said.
Booker received his juris doctorate degree from the University of Louisville but has not yet taken the state bar exam to be an attorney, Lawson said.
As administrative services director in Fish and Wildlife, Booker oversees all fiscal and personnel functions of the department. He also helps create, implement and enforce the department's policies.
Booker replaces Darin K. Moore, who resigned in September.
Booker was fired Feb. 17 from his job as a legislative analyst, a position he had held since Dec. 3, 2012.
He told the Courier-Journal of Louisville he was terminated for violating a policy that prohibits LRC employees from engaging in partisan political activities.
Marcia Seiler, acting director of the LRC, confirmed that Booker no longer was employed by the agency, but she declined to discuss the issue.
Booker appeared briefly in a Grimes campaign video, which mostly featured his wife, Tanesha Booker. She said in the video that U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had done nothing to help her community.
Booker made a few comments in the video about the west Louisville community.