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.
Information from: The Courier-Journal,
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)