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Hearing Officer: Duncan Fired For Political Reasons

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A former deputy inspector general of the
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet was fired in 2005 for political
reasons and should be reinstated with back pay, a hearing officer
recommended Wednesday.
The firing of Mike Duncan as deputy inspector general by
Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert "resulted not from his work
performance, but due to a consensus that he must go due to his
political beliefs and activities," according to John Ryan, a
hearing officer for the State Personnel Board.
The Duncan case was also part of an investigation by a special
grand jury that looked into the personnel practices of Gov. Ernie
Fletcher's administration.
Nighbert and Fletcher have said that Duncan was not fired for
political reasons. They also contended Nighbert had the right to
terminate Duncan on May 13, 2005 because Duncan was serving his
six-month probationary period - a time when rank and file employees
are not covered by the full protections of the state merit system
law.
But Ryan concluded Duncans firing was "excessive, erroneous and
improper" and in violation of the state merit system law, the
Courier-Journal reported on Wednesday.
The governor was indicted last year on charges that he illegally
rewarded political supporters with protected state jobs. The
indictment was dismissed in a deal with prosecutors, but the
special grand jury later issued its findings in the case, saying
Fletcher had approved a "widespread and coordinated plan" to
skirt state hiring laws.
Fletcher has maintained that the investigation was politically
motivated by Democratic Attorney General Greg Stumbo.
The Transportation Cabinet has 15 days to file exceptions to
Ryan's findings and recommendations. The Personnel board will
consider the issue at a meeting set for May 11.
The Personnel Board has the authority to reinstate any employee
it determines has been illegally fired.
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Information from: The Courier-Journal,
http://www.courier-journal.com

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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