Pendleton defends work for Murray State

PADUCAH — State Sen. Joey Pendleton says allegations that he accepted thousands of dollars in unauthorized pay while working for Murray State University are politically motivated by the Republican Party of Kentucky.

Pendleton, a Hopkinsville Democrat who has been a senator since 1993, faces Republican Tom Jones in the Nov. 4 election. The 3rd District encompasses Christian, Todd and Logan counties.

State Republican Party Chairman Steve Robertson asked Attorney General Jack Conway last week to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate allegations that Pendleton received unauthorized pay from the university while in Frankfort on legislative business.

"The only thing I know about this is what reporters have told me when they call to ask questions," Pendleton said. "It is the lowest of lows. I was always complimented by Murray State University for the job I was doing, and then the Republican Party raises some issue two weeks before the election."

Pendleton was the projects manager of Murray State's farm operations from July 1998 until June 30. He said his job was to promote the farm, seek donations, recruit students for the agriculture program and help manage the Angus cattle herd.

Murray State President Randy Dunn said Pendleton's job was terminated because of budget cuts.

Dunn said, "In the year and a half that he worked for the university while I was president, there was no indication or allegations that he didn't perform his duties. ... "

Alan Stout, chairman of the Murray State Board of Regents, confirmed that a board member earlier this year asked Conway to investigate the matter. He declined to comment further.

Allison Martin, Conway's spokeswoman, would not comment on the status of the request.

Robertson claims Pendleton's Murray State employment contract says he wasn't to be paid for days he was working on legislative business. He said records he got from the university and Legislative Research Commission show that from April 12, 2006, through June 30, Pendleton was on legislative business 244 days.

Based on Pendleton's salary of $56,000 a year, Robertson said Pendleton was overpaid by MSU by more than $60,000.

However, Pendleton's employment contracts do not confirm that. During that period, Pendleton was hired on semiannual employment contracts. The only contract that says he was "not to be paid if attending legislative duties" was for the period July 1, 2007, to Dec. 31, 2007. During that time, Pendleton was in Frankfort on legislative business for 56 days, according to records obtained by Robertson.