Former State Employee Reinstated

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A former state employee who claimed he was
fired for political reasons will be reinstated with back pay, the
state personnel board ruled Friday.
Mike Duncan, a former deputy inspector general of the Kentucky
Transportation Cabinet, had been listed along with 31 other state
employees allegedly targeted by Gov. Ernie Fletcher's
administration.
The personnel board ruled that Duncan must be reinstated to the
same or a similar position.
"They terminated him because of politics," said Paul Fauri, a
Frankfort attorney representing Duncan. "It's clear, plain and
simple."
A hearing officer for the personnel board recommended in March
that Duncan be reinstated after finding that his firing 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."
Transportation Cabinet attorneys have 30 days to appeal to the
personnel board's decision.
Fauri said he expects the state agency to ask a judge to stay
the personnel board's decision pending the outcome of an expected
appeal.
The bottom line, Fauri said, is that Duncan likely won't get to
return immediately.
Doug Hogan, spokesman for the Transportation Cabinet, said
officials will review the personnel board's decision and take
appropriate action.
The Duncan case was part of an investigation by a special grand
jury that looked into the personnel practices of the Fletcher
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.
Duncan, who over a 30 year career had worked as a state police
trooper, an investigator in the attorney general's office and as
deputy inspector general in the Transportation Cabinet, had
supported unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben
Chandler in the 2003 election against Fletcher.
Duncan's name was 32 on a "hit list" of state workers targeted
for personnel action. The list included information about the
political affiliation and campaign contributions of both merit and
non-merit employees.
Duncan, a Democrat, had donated money and worked for Chandler.
State laws prohibit the firing of merit workers based on political
considerations.
The special grand jury investigating state hiring and firing
issued a misdemeanor indictment charging Fletcher with violating
state personnel laws. That indictment was later dismissed in a
negotiated settlement with prosecutors. Fletcher, a Republican, has
maintained that the investigation was politically motivated.

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


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