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Democratic Party activist hired as 'policy adviser'

Gov. Steve Beshear has put another Democratic Party activist on the state payroll with the title "policy adviser."

Last week, Wayne B. Gunnell of Eminence was named a $55,000-a-year policy adviser in the Revenue Department, under Finance and Administration Secretary Jonathan Miller, who until recently was the chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party.

Gunnell is vice chairman of the Henry County Democratic Party. He also was a magistrate on the Henry County Fiscal Court, where — according to published accounts — he helped to decide questions about garbage collection, humane treatment at the county animal shelter, a smoking ban and picking a location for a new airport.

In his political donations, Gunnell has listed his occupation as production worker at the General Electric plant in Louisville. He has given about $5,000 in recent years, including $1,000 to Beshear's campaign for the 2007 general election, although he was a supporter of former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry before Henry's defeat in the Democratic primary.

He gave money to Henry's Senate and gubernatorial campaigns; he was quoted in a 2002 news story as being one of the local officeholders whom Henry consulted about his political future that year.

Gunnell did not return a call to his state office Monday.

In a statement, Revenue Commissioner Tom Miller said Gunnell has a long record of service in Henry County government and was president in 2002 of the Kentucky Association of Counties. Gunnell will work with property valuation administrators and other local officials throughout Kentucky "on matters concerning property taxes and how they affect local government," Miller wrote.

So far, Beshear has named 20 political appointees as "policy advisers" in state government, many of them Democratic officeholders, activists or fund-raisers who helped his campaign.

Beshear pays his policy advisers an average salary of $71,545.