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Court limits the scope of Fletcher pardons

FRANKFORT — A three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals recently ruled that a governor's power to pardon is limited to criminal cases.

In a ruling released Friday, the state Court of Appeals ruled that the Executive Branch Ethics Commission could proceed in an ethics case against Basil Turbyfill even though former Gov. Ernie Fletcher had issued a pardon in a criminal case against the former director of the Governor's Office of Personnel and Efficiency.

Turbyfill was one of several former Fletcher administration employees charged with violating the state's merit hiring laws and later pardoned by Fletcher.

Turbyfill challenged the authority of the Executive Branch Ethics Commission to proceed in an administrative case against him, saying that Fletcher's pardon included any civil or other administrative proceedings.

A Boyle Circuit Court judge sided with the Executive Branch Ethics Commission. The state Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's opinion on Friday.

John Steffen, the executive director of the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, said the ruling was significant not just in the Fletcher case but also going forward.

"It lets us move forward even if there is a pardon," Steffen said. "It means that we can still charge them with something even if there are no criminal consequences."

Patrick Nash, an attorney for Turbyfill, said Monday that he and his client are still reviewing the decision and have not decided whether they will appeal to the state Supreme Court.

The cases against Turbyfill and Richard Murgatroyd, another Fletcher administration official, are still pending before the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.

Others involved in the 2005 merit hiring investigation have settled with the ethics commission and have paid fines.