Politics & Government

Governor: Funding not tied to politics

LUCAS - Barren County Judge-Executive Davie Greer said she was pleasantly surprised when Gov. Ernie Fletcher brought $5 million for area roads and agriculture development when he was in the area on Feb. 5.

One of Fletcher's biggest advantages as an incumbent is that he gets to deliver state checks to local officials across the state -- which Fletcher says is a win-win for everybody.

"I hope it helps that we help counties," he said.

So far in February, the governor has doled out nearly $13.9 million in community development funds to six counties -- all of which are home to state legislators and/or county judge-executives who have endorsed Fletcher's re-election bid.

But the governor, who faces challenges from Anne Northup and Billy Harper in the GOP primary, adamantly denied that any state funding is tied to political endorsements.

"That's an absolute insult to think that our judge-executives would deal that way," Fletcher said. "We've dealt with all of them fairly."

Greer of Barren County -- who was among nine southern Kentucky judge-executives who announced their support of Fletcher on Jan. 16 -- said the money for road resurfacing, guard rails and agriculture diversification was requested. But getting the money was a treat.

"They were surprises to me that we got the funding," Greer said. "We never know when we're going to get any funding. This was a nice gift."

Greer said the governor has traditionally brought road or local development funding when he travels through Barren County.

The other counties that received community development funds through the Governor's Office for Local Development this month include Knox, Clay, Shelby, Oldham and Lyon. The judge-executive from Knox announced he was backing Fletcher on Feb. 2. The state senators for all five of those counties endorsed the governor last month. Several contacted last week denied any deal was made in exchange for their support.

J.M. Hall, Knox County's judge-executive, said state funds for a senior center already had been approved and essentially spent before Fletcher brought $500,000 for it and $2.6 million for a courthouse annex and waterlines on Feb. 19.

"I just didn't know they were coming to be awarded that day," Hall said.

Voters, meanwhile, have appeared receptive and thankful for state assistance. At Saturday's Republican Lincoln Day Dinner in Monroe County, one of Fletcher's largest ovations came when he mentioned the expansion of Ky. 163 to Tompkinsville, first placed into the state road plan by Sen. David Williams, R-Burkesville.

"They've had this promise for 20 years, and they have no economic development down here. And this county needs it," Fletcher said later. "I'm not going to stop being governor and we're not going to stop building the future because it happens to be an election year."

Meadows moves on

Nearly two years after Attorney General Greg Stumbo began the investigation into Fletcher administration hiring practices, there's still fallout from the inquiry.

"It seems every few months, just when you think you're past all that, it somehow finds its way back into the news media," said Cory Meadows, a former transportation official and Governor's Office for Local Development aide, who was one of 15 people indicted in the investigation.

Fletcher pardoned Meadows, along with the rest of the administration, but later fired him and eight others.

Meadows, who has remained largely silent about his ordeal, declined to comment in an interview about his role in the administration's personnel practices.

Instead, he said he has moved on with his life and career and has managed not to lose his interest in government.

"I have to say those few months when that was going on, I wouldn't be completely honest with you unless I said it soured me some," he said. "But I can't let that one instance sour my love for policy and politics." He also said he didn't begrudge Fletcher for trying to raise money to cover legal bills the governor sustained during the inquiry, even though a fund aimed at helping Meadows and other aides was disbanded.

"I would have appreciated the gesture, don't get me wrong," said Meadows, now 29. "But I didn't want the appearance that I had my hand out. I wanted to handle it myself." He said his bills totaled roughly $10,000 and estimated that Fletcher's could be as high as $500,000.

Meadows has opened his own law firm, Meadows Law Office LLC in Louisville. And he's getting married in July to Whitney Simpson, the event coordinator for the Governor's Office for Local Development.

As for politics, Meadows -- like many Republicans -- said he's staying out of the primary but will support the GOP's nominee.

Northup announcement

Northup, the former GOP congresswoman from Louisville, is scheduled to make an announcement today involving an endorsement. On Friday, Northup told a crowd of 325 Republicans at the Shelby County Lincoln Day that she expects several key Republicans to publicly support her. "I have never run against a Republican before," she said, adding that she understands the primary will force many GOP supporters to make tough decisions.

She then mentioned how she has told a number of key Republicans, including "people who are going to be endorsing me in the next couple weeks," that she regrets that they will be "in the cross hairs."

Northup specifically cited Lt. Gov. Steve Pence, who dropped off Fletcher's re-election ticket last summer. "We had someone who is the lieutenant governor, who was in the U.S. attorney's office fighting crime and had created a wonderful reputation for himself, and finally said, 'I can't run for lieutenant governor with him again because I cannot allow my reputation to be on the line with the things I know that happened,'" she said.

Neither Northup's campaign nor Pence has commented on the subject of today's announcement, which will be made in Frankfort at 12:30 p.m.

Huffman leaves Capitol

In a related note, Pence's chief of staff, Stephen Huffman, resigned Friday to "pursue other opportunities" in the legislative affairs arena.

Huffman handled scheduling duties for Fletcher and Pence's 2003 campaign before serving as Pence's top aide for the last three years. Huffman also worked with lawmakers on Pence's top legislative priority in 2006: a bill that tightened the laws regarding sex offenders.

"I want to thank the governor and his administration for allowing me the opportunity to work with the lieutenant governor," Huffman said in a statement. "I am forever grateful to my friend and mentor, Steve Pence, for teaching me so much about serving the public."

Fox News in town

A crew with Brit Hume's Special Report on Fox News will be in Frankfort today to interview the three Republican candidates for governor. The news program is doing a piece on the GOP primary.