LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Gov. Steve Beshear has fired four high-ranking officials of the Kentucky Public Service Commission.
All had been appointed by former Gov. Ernie Fletcher.
Those terminated were PSC Executive Director Beth O'Donnell, general counsel David Samford, legislative liaison Martin Hall, and Financial Analysis Division director Phil Cave, who is the brother of former Fletcher chief of staff Stan Cave.
The firings by the governor could conflict with two state statutes that suggest those PSC positions are to be managed by the commission rather than the governor. The move also comes at a time when the commission is in the midst of some high-profile cases.
Beshear spokeswoman Vicki Glass says the posts will be filled soon, but there's no timetable. The jobs pay between nearly $74,000 and $99,000 annually.
However, state law suggests the governor might not have authority to hire and fire persons in those positions.
Statutes governing the PSC note the commission itself will appoint its executive director, and that person will lead the commission in its employment of others, including lawyers.
The dismissals do require the consent of the commission, but the consent can come after the governor's actions, said Dan Egbers, executive director of the Office of Legal Services in the state personnel cabinet.
Beshear's actions come at a time when the commission is embroiled in some high-profile cases and also when it, along with other state offices, is slashing its budget to make up for revenue shortfalls.
Last month, the commission, in an unusually direct move, suggested that Lexington's government form a public-private partnership with Kentucky American Water to solve the region's water supply problems.
It also has before it a request by Big Rivers Electric in Western Kentucky to terminate a lease that allows E.On. U.S., which includes Louisville Gas & Electric and Kentucky Utilities, to operate its power plants. That lease was made at a time when Big Rivers faced financial struggles.
Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, http://www.kentucky.com
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)