I must take issue with the Herald-Leader's editorial suggesting that I should impose some manner of reprimand or sanction on Rep. Keith Hall in addition to the fine already imposed by the Legislative Ethics Commission.
Hall fully cooperated with the commission, which exhaustively reviewed the facts of the case. Following thoughtful deliberation, the commission ruled that there was "no evidence that Representative Hall acted improperly or illegally" in accepting, performing and billing for his work.
The commission further found that the work was "a necessary part of a project that brought sewers to rural Pike County," was conducted in the correct manner and was completed for a reasonable fee.
The only issue was whether Hall should have voted on the budget bill that contained funding for part of this project. Hall explained to the commission that he did not realize the bill had any relation to the sewer project. The commission ruled that even if Hall did not have actual knowledge of this minor provision in the budget, he should have.
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Based on this finding, the commission levied a fine and sent a copy of its findings to me.
It is important to note that the commission carefully selected the imposed fine from a menu of options found in KRS 6.691(5). It affirmatively chose not to recommend further censure by the House of Representatives, which was an option fully known to the commission.
I decided that it would not be appropriate to second-guess the commission, which had fully considered the facts of the case in preparing its carefully reasoned order.
The other alternative would be to attempt to replicate the hearing and investigatory function of the commission, with no indication that the facts would change, and create a major distraction from the pressing issues now confronting the General Assembly.
I alone do not assess additional sanctions; it is only the full House of Representatives, and this undertaking did not and does not seem wise given the careful work already accomplished by the commission.
The Herald-Leader's comparison of this case to former Gov. Ernie Fletcher's hiring scandal is badly misguided. Suggesting that the full cooperation of Hall and the unfettered review by the commission are in any way comparable to the stonewalling, assertion of executive privilege and granting of pardons in the Fletcher case is ridiculous.
We acted upon the findings of the Fletcher grand jury exactly as we act upon the findings of the Ethics Commission, in each case following the directions of the investigative entity.
Nothing could be fairer than that.