M. Stephen Pitt, a Louisville lawyer who defended Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher during the state hiring investigation that led to Fletcher's indictment in 2006, will be general counsel to Republican Governor-elect Matt Bevin.
Bevin announced the appointment Tuesday.
"I am pleased to have Steve Pitt join our team," Bevin said in a prepared statement. "He is widely respected and has a deep understanding of the law that is rooted in decades of experience. The office of general counsel is a critical one, and Steve's character, competence and commitment to the commonwealth are beyond reproach."
Pitt, 69, is a member of Wyatt Tarrant & Combs.
Nine years ago, Fletcher hired Pitt to defend him on misdemeanor criminal charges of violating the state's merit system rules. Democratic Attorney General Greg Stumbo, now the House speaker, said Fletcher and his aides awarded state merit jobs to reward campaign donors, relatives, friends and others, regardless of their qualifications. Fletcher pardoned his indicted aides and ultimately settled the case with Stumbo.
"The governor acknowledges that the evidence strongly indicates wrongdoing by his administration with regard to personnel actions within the merit system," the settlement agreement stated.
The next year, Fletcher named Pitt's daughter, Caroline Pitt Clark, to the state Public Service Commission, the agency that regulates utilities.
In private practice, Pitt defends large corporations blamed for pollution. He represented Rockwell International Corp. when it was accused in federal, state and private lawsuits of contaminating a river system with highly toxic PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls. He also represented Oxy Vinyls, an Occidental Petroleum affiliate, in a federal toxic tort action involving a purported class of about 30,000 residents, ending in summary judgment for his client.
Pitt is "a very able counselor, someone with the highest ethical standards" for whom the Bevin administration is an opportunity "to give back to the community through public service," said Byron Leet, one of Pitt's law partners.
"Steve is a wonderful person to work with," Leet said. "Frankly, I've never seen him lose his temper in all the years I've worked beside him."