Politics & Government

Stumbo appeal goes before new member

FRANKFORT - A recently ousted member of the state Personnel Board was appointed by Gov. Ernie Fletcher to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission yesterday, a day before that panel meets to decide whether it is a conflict of interest for Attorney General Greg Stumbo to run for governor.

Patrick Moores, a Nicholasville attorney, will replace Ray Altman, who resigned from the commission Monday.

After four months on the job, Moores was forced to resign from the Personnel Board in August, after Fletcher and Stumbo reached a deal to end a lengthy investigation by Stumbo's office of the Fletcher administration's hiring practices.

As part of the deal, four of Fletcher's appointees to the Personnel Board had to resign, to be replaced by Fletcher using lists of candidates provided by Stumbo.

Moores will now have the opportunity to vote on Stumbo's request to have the ethics commission reconsider its earlier ruling that said he could not run for governor without a "perceived or actual" conflict of interest.

Stumbo, who says he is still mulling a run for governor, has maintained that he will take the issue to court if the commission does not reverse itself, because the ruling sets a "bad precedent."

"We'll just see tomorrow whether they want to be fair, or whether they want to violate my constitutional rights or whether they're afraid I'll run," Stumbo said.

Fletcher's press secretary, Jodi Whitaker, said the appointment of Moores had nothing to do with Stumbo's appeal.

"Anyone who has dealt with Mr. Moores recognizes his ethical standards," Whitaker said. "The appointment is perfectly appropriate."

Although some vacancies on boards appointed by Fletcher sit open for months, Whitaker said it is not unusual for Fletcher to fill a vacancy within days.

Altman did not offer a reason for leaving the board in his letter of resignation, Whitaker said.

Stumbo said he doesn't think Moores would have any reason to be biased against him, because the deal between prosecutors and Fletcher wasn't critical of the personnel board members who were asked to resign.

"We didn't ask them to be removed because we had any evidence that they did anything wrong," Stumbo said. Fletcher appointees to the personnel board were asked to step down so that workers who brought grievances before the board wouldn't have to worry about whether they were getting a fair shake, Stumbo said.

Stumbo noted that Moores will replace another Fletcher-appointee on the ethics panel.

In a letter to the ethics commission earlier this month, Mike Bowling, a former state representative and law partner of Stumbo, said he was representing Stumbo and wanted the panel to reconsider its June ruling that called it a conflict of interest for Stumbo to run for governor, even if the hiring investigation ended.

Bowling argued that much has changed since that ruling -- most notably that Stumbo and Fletcher signed the investigation-ending deal in which Fletcher agreed the inquiry was justified and that Stumbo was carrying out his constitutional duty.

Stumbo said the ethics panel needs to take those changes into consideration.

"If they want to rely upon that, then they'll reverse themselves," he said. "If they don't, then it's cronyism at its worst."

A Lexington native, Moores is a former Army captain who obtained his law degree from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. A former partner of Fowler, Measle and Bell in Lexington, he now operates a solo legal practice.