Politics & Government

Lawsuit says Fletcher admitted wrongdoing

FRANKFORT - When Gov. Ernie Fletcher signed a deal last month to have his misdemeanor charges dropped, he acknowledged that prosecutors' evidence "strongly indicates wrongdoing," he agreed his administration's actions were "inappropriate" and, as the head of state government, he accepted responsibility.

But, that agreement was a "mere generalized statement" in which he did not acknowledge involvement or responsibility, according to a recent federal court filing on Fletcher's behalf. The papers were filed in federal district court as part of a case involving state Transportation Cabinet employee Almeda Wireman.

In recent court papers on her behalf, Wireman claimed the agreed order that Fletcher signed with prosecutors last month was essentially an admission by the governor of his involvement and responsibility in personnel decisions about protected state jobs.

Not so, according to the filing.

Fletcher, according to the federal filing, acknowledged in the deal with state prosecutors that evidence indicated wrongdoing by his administration -- not himself.

"By the agreed order, Fletcher has not admitted that he was personally involved in any wrongful conduct relating to the personnel actions with the merit system of employment. ... Nowhere in the agreed order does Fletcher acknowledge that he was personally involved in any wrongful conduct relating to personnel actions," according to the filing.

Last month, special judge David E. Melcher approved the deal struck behind closed doors between prosecutors and the governor's defense attorneys.

Among other things, Fletcher agreed that actions by his administration were "inappropriate" and that he "regrets their occurrence." As the state's chief executive, he accepted responsibility for them, but he did not admit to any criminal wrongdoing.

Vicki Glass, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Greg Stumbo, said Fletcher "admitted to wrongdoing" in the agreement.

"Whether he and his administration are liable for damages is now in the hands of the federal court," Glass said.

Although Fletcher might have accepted "ultimate responsibility" for some of the alleged occurrences, he did not have any personal involvement in the Wireman case, Spencer Noe, one of Fletcher's attorneys, said in a telephone interview.

Noe also said that the governor's settlement with prosecutors should not be used against him in the civil matter pending before the federal district court.

Wireman, who filed the lawsuit this year, claimed her civil rights were violated and that she was passed over for a promotion to highway district administrative manager because of political reasons.

Noe said the governor should not be held responsible for everything that happened in his administration.

The agreement that dismissed Fletcher's misdemeanor charges of alleged conspiracy, official misconduct and political discrimination was "a mere generalized statement, and does not address the particular circumstances of the personnel action taken with respect to (Wireman)," according to the filing for Fletcher.