Politics & Government

State senator Julie Denton apologizes for missing ethics sessions

State Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville
State Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville

FRANKFORT — State Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, tearfully apologized Tuesday as the Legislative Ethics Commission criticized her for skipping most of the ethics training required of legislators during the past four years.

The commission took no formal disciplinary action. But its chairman, George Troutman, told Denton he was displeased she missed six of the last eight mandatory ethics sessions and then told the Herald-Leader in March other legislators don't take the sessions seriously, sometimes signing in and then leaving immediately.

"There's been a certain arrogance about this whole issue," Troutman told Denton at the commission's meeting Tuesday. "There's been nobody out there with the delinquency that you have had."

Denton said she later listened to recordings of sessions she missed. But Troutman said listening to recordings is acceptable only for occasional absences, such as those required by a family emergency, and it shouldn't be done routinely.

Crying, Denton told the commission, "I can assure you that if I knew that attendance was mandatory, I would have been here."

By law, legislators must spend three hours every January in ethics training. The training is part of an ethics law passed after the 1992 Operation BOPTROT investigation exposed 15 current or former legislators who swapped votes for gifts and favors.

In other business Tuesday, the commission dismissed an ethics complaint against state Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown.

Jerry Richardson, a former social studies teacher in Georgetown, filed the complaint after noticing that Thayer included his Senate title, Senate assignments and the state seal on the Web site of his private business, Thayer Communications and Consulting.

By advertising that he's a senator, Thayer improperly uses his public position to attract clients for personal gain, Richardson said in an interview Tuesday.

"To me, it's pimping out the office," Richardson said. "The implication is obvious: 'Look what I can do for you, buddy. I have influence.'"

However, the commission ruled that "Kentucky law does not prohibit a legislator from merely stating biographical information on a business Web site that he or she is a legislator."

After the meeting, Thayer said he was gratified by the dismissal.

"It was a baseless, politically motivated claim, completely without merit," Thayer said.