Panel Brings Ethics Charges Against 4 Former Fletcher Aides

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A commission investigating a state hiring scandal approved ethics charges Friday against four former high-ranking officials in Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration.

The Republican administration was under investigation for more than a year over allegations that the governor's political supporters were being given protected state jobs based on their connections instead of qualifications. The governor himself was indicted on three misdemeanor charges that were dropped in a negotiated deal with prosecutors.

In 2005, Fletcher issued a blanket pardon for anyone else in his administration who might be criminally charged. However, the Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission that approved the charges Friday said it does not believe that pardon will have an effect.

The panel, most of which was appointed by Fletcher, approved ethics charges against Darrell Brock, James L. Adams, Basil Turbyfill and Robert Wilson Jr. Wilson and Turbyfill had been fired. All four face potential fines and public reprimand. None still works for the state.

Brock, a former chairman of the state Republican Party, is a former commissioner of the governor's office of local development. Adams is the former deputy secretary of transportation.

Turbyfill was the director of the governor's office of personnel and efficiency. Wilson is a former director of personnel in the Commerce Cabinet.

The commission accused each of the four with different levels of involvement in a plan to subvert hiring laws guiding the state's version of a civil service system to install Fletcher's political supporters.

Turbyfill said the commission's charges are "totally off the wall and something I'm not familiar with at all," he said.

Wilson's attorney Jerry Wright said he was unaware of the charges and did not have an immediate comment.

A call to Adams' home in Louisville was not immediately returned and his attorney Mark Chandler said he was not aware of the development. Brock did not return a call to his cell phone.

Fletcher spokeswoman Jodi Whitaker said she was unaware of the charges and did not have a comment.

The commission previously charged former Fletcher administration official Dan Druen with violating state ethics law.

Fletcher, a former congressman and doctor, became governor in 2003 on a promise to clean up the state Capitol. Despite the ongoing investigation into his administration, Fletcher, the state's first Republican governor in more than 30 years, won the GOP primary May 22 in his bid for a second four-year term.

The governor has maintained the investigation was politically motivated, although he signed a document to dismiss the charges that acknowledged the investigation as "necessary and proper." Attorney General Greg Stumbo, whose office led the investigation, was an unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Fletcher faces Democrat Steve Beshear, a former lieutenant governor, in the Nov. 6 general election.

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

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