Politics & Government

Judge unseals 110 pages of governor's e-mails

FRANKFORT - A judge has released some of Gov. Ernie Fletcher's e-mails sent through his state account but has kept many of them under seal.

In a six-page order signed Friday, Franklin Circuit Judge Sam G. McNamara made public about 110 pages of e-mails in Fletcher's state government e-mail account, sadieky.gov.

But the judge kept under wraps e-mails he said were exempt under Kentucky's open records law. He said they dealt with prospective location of a business, legal advice between Fletcher and his attorneys, personal information and preliminary documents such as drafts of speeches and proposed policies.

A judge ruled in April that the governor's e-mails should be privately screened by the court to determine whether they should be made public.

Fletcher's "Sadie" e-mail account - named after his late dog - arose during an investigation into personnel decisions in Fletcher's administration. Fletcher has been indicted on three misdemeanor charges of violating state personnel laws.

In June 2005, a reporter for The Courier-Journal of Louisville filed an open records request with the governor's office, seeking "any and all e-mails" sent to Fletcher's state account from Dec. 9, 2003, to June 13, 2005.

Fletcher's office partially denied the request, and the newspaper appealed to the attorney general's office.

The attorney general's office requested to review the documents. Fletcher's office denied the request and appealed to Franklin Circuit Court. The Herald-Leader joined with The Courier-Journal in the suit.

McNamara also ruled that Fletcher's office did not willfully withhold the requested e-mails. The judge's order can be appealed.

Pence wrote Fletcher

A review yesterday of the "Sadie" e-mails McNamara released showed a May 28, 2005, e-mail from Lt. Gov. Steve Pence's BlackBerry to Fletcher about the hiring investigation being conducted by Attorney General Greg Stumbo's office.

Pence wrote: "Governor, Two weeks ago the AG said he had a 'smoking gun' of criminal wrongdoing. (His words). Yesterday he said 'We have not said anybody did anything wrong.'

"Unbelievable!

"Although this is a moving target, it is moving in the right direction."

Fletcher replied, "Thanks. Again you've done a great job."

Pence announced several weeks ago that he would not run again with Fletcher, who is seeking re-election.

Groves, Cave e-mails

Most of Fletcher's released e-mails dealt with operations of state government, ranging from budget issues and grants to power outages in a December 2004 storm. Some dealt with media requests and news stories. Former Chief of Staff Daniel Groves sent an e-mail to "Sadie" on June 9, 2004, containing a Reuters story about the evacuation of the U.S. Capitol and Supreme Court in Washington when a state plane carrying Fletcher violated restricted airspace.

In early May 2005, Stan Cave, Fletcher's chief of staff, asked the Finance Cabinet in an e-mail for the number of open records requests since Fletcher took office in December 2003.

He was told there were 867, and 128 of those were from the media. In 2003, the Finance Cabinet received 551 requests, 15 from the media, Cave was told. "THIS IS HARD TO BELIEVE," Cave wrote in an e-mail to the governor.

Earlier this year, Fletcher said he no longer has an e-mail account - public or private - "because I can't control what people send to me."

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