Kentucky

Fletcher official pays ethics fine

The former head of the state Republican Party has paid $1,000 to settle an ethics complaint that grew from a heated controversy over alleged political hiring in the administration of former Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

The Executive Branch Ethics Commission approved the settlement with Darrell Brock Jr. on Friday. Brock made the payment the same day, said John R. Steffen, commission executive director.

Brock, who was commissioner of the Governor's Office for Local Development, was among more than a dozen Fletcher administration officials charged in 2005 with violating personnel laws by making hiring decisions based on political considerations.

Fletcher issued a broad pardon covering everyone who had been charged, including Brock, or who might be charged.

A grand jury indicted Fletcher, but the charges were dismissed in a settlement with then-Attorney General Greg Stumbo.

Fletcher, the first GOP governor in more than 30 years, said Stumbo's investigation was a politically motivated witch hunt, but Stumbo, a Democrat, said his office had an obligation to look into allegations of hiring improprieties.

The controversy was an issue through much of Fletcher's term and probably played a role in his re-election defeat in 2007.

In 2007, two years after Fletcher pardoned Brock and others on the criminal charges, the ethics commission issued complaints against several of the officials.

The commission said it investigated whether Brock used his official position to give some people an advantage in getting jobs and whether he tried to influence a public agency in personnel matters.

The commission filed one count against Brock. It alleged that while he was Fletcher's commissioner for local development, he pressured a supervisor in another state agency to give a merit-system job to a woman based on her support for Fletcher.

Brock did that even though the woman had "continually interviewed poorly" and wasn't the best-qualified person for the job, the commission said in the charge.

Brock said he didn't know his actions were in violation of state law, but he recognized that the allegations, if proven, could result in a finding that he violated the law, the agreement said.

"It is an admission that he did wrong," Steffen said of the settlement.

The settlement represents a public reprimand of Brock, according to the document.

In an e-mail, Brock's attorney said Brock was operating under the advice of administration counsel in the hiring decision at issue, and that "he vehemently disputes the characterization that his interpretation of the regulation was incorrect, or that his settlement is an acknowledgment of wrongdoing."

The e-mail also said Brock decided to settle to avoid costly legal fees.

The agreement ends the ethics complaint against Brock, but several former Fletcher administration officials continue to fight charges by the commission.

Basil Turbyfill, who directed Fletcher's Office of Personnel and Efficiency; Richard Murgatroyd, former deputy secretary of the Transportation Cabinet; and James Adams, who also was an official at Transportation, all asked the commission to dismiss the charges. After the commission denied those requests, they appealed in court to have them dismissed, Steffen said.

Dan Druen, another former Transportation Cabinet official, did not seek a dismissal of the ethics charges. A hearing on the complaint against him is scheduled in August.

Druen allegedly maintained a "hit list" of state workers to be fired or demoted and replaced by Fletcher loyalists.

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