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Unusual job record haunts House candidate

FRANKFORT — A former state corrections employee who lost his job in 2004 for allegedly falsifying travel records is running for the state House.

Terry D. Gilreath of Pulaski County was fired in October 2004 by then-Corrections Commissioner John Rees, who accused Gilreath of committing fraud upon the state.

However, the state later agreed to void the termination in a settlement that required Gilreath to drop an appeal of his firing. He also agreed not to seek future employment with the Department of Corrections.

Rees' dismissal letter to Gilreath was obtained by the Herald-Leader from the state Personnel Board through an Open Records Request.

Gilreath, who is running for the 85th House District seat in the May primary against fellow Republican incumbent Tommy Turner of Somerset, said he is "very concerned" that the 2004 letter from the corrections commissioner was made public.

"I'm innocent. I was never proven guilty of anything," he said. "I know my political opponents are behind this. ... It sounds like my opponent is feeling the heat. I expected a dirty trick like this."

Turner, who has represented the district that includes Laurel and Pulaski counties since 1999, said he has heard about the 2004 charges against Gilreath, "but I've not put them out and am not raising them in this campaign."

State Republican Party Chairman Steve Robertson said he has not talked to Gilreath about his 2004 dismissal.

"But obviously it is very disturbing," Robertson said. "I will contact him and we will discuss whether his running is the appropriate thing to do."

In the Oct. 4, 2004, dismissal letter, Rees said Gilreath had submitted a travel voucher in Sept. 2, 2003, for $1,044.40 and received a state check for it. Gilreath endorsed the check and deposited it in his bank account, the dismissal letter said.

On Oct. 1, 2003, Gilreath submitted a duplicate of the travel voucher with a minor change in the total for $1,044.20.

Gilreath received a state check, endorsed it and put it in his bank account.

Rees noted that in an Aug. 25, 2004, memo, Gilreath "admitted to submitting a duplicate travel voucher for which you were reimbursed twice for the same expense."

He said: "Your actions constitute an attempt to commit fraud upon the Commonwealth."

Rees also accused Gilreath of falsifying mileage claimed on his travel vouchers between July 2003 and April 2004.

Gilreath denied the charges and appealed the dismissal to the state Personnel Board. The appeal was settled in 2006.

He said the processing of a duplicated travel voucher resulted from a mistake. He said he reconciled the mistake by refunding the overage.

Gilreath also said his mileage claims on travel vouchers were accurate.

In the settlement agreement, the state Justice Cabinet, which oversees the corrections department, agreed to void Gilreath's termination and remove any notice letters related to it from his personnel files.

Gilreath agreed to dismiss his appeal and not to apply to the corrections department for employment. He later got a job with the Administrative Office of the Courts as project coordinator for new justice centers and retired in June 2008.

Gilreath, 49, of Science Hill, filed last December with the state Registry of Election Finance to raise money for the state House race. His last quarterly finance report on Sept. 30 showed him with about $1,700 on hand.

Gilreath said he is running against Turner "because I don't agree with his legislative record, especially his support for raising taxes 14 times since 2006."

Turner said he never has voted for a tax increase.

"I guess anything my opponent says and does shouldn't surprise me," Turner said.

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