Outgoing Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear appoints wife, issues pardons on final day in office

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP/WKYT) — Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear appointed his wife to an unpaid position on the Kentucky Horse Park Commission and issued 201 pardons and six commutations on his final day in office Monday.

Beshear served for two terms. Republican Gov.-elect Matt Bevin will be sworn in on Tuesday in a private ceremony just after midnight.

On Friday, Beshear appointed Jane Beshear to the horse commission for a term that will expire Jan. 1, 2019. Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto called the appointment "self-serving" and an "embarrassment."

"The days of elected leaders treating Kentuckians with disrespect are over," Ditto said in an email. "A new day is dawning. It is time for a fresh start."

Beshear spokesman Terry Sebastian noted that Jane Beshear has served on the Horse Park Commission in the past, having been appointed by former Gov. Martha Layne Collins. Steve Beshear served as Collins' lieutenant governor.

"The only people who should be embarrassed are those who question the First Lady's qualifications to be on the Kentucky Horse Park Commission," Sebastian said in an email. Jane Beshear "has helped strengthen the Commonwealth's tourism industry the last 8 years, and will work just as hard again as a member of the Kentucky Horse Park Commission."

In his final act as governor, Beshear issued full pardons to 201 people and commuted the sentences of six others out of the more than 3,400 applications his office received during his time in office.

His pardons and commutations included 10 women who court and prison records show had been convicted of killing their husbands or significant others after the women had been victims of domestic violence.

Four of them — Donna Wheeler, Laurie Andrade, Judy Lee and Stacey Wigginton — were in prison and had their sentences commuted. Cheryl McCafferty of Fredonia was in prison at the Western Kentucky Correctional Complex and was given a pardon.

Cheryl McCafferty was convicted in 2009 and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

McCafferty was one of ten women pardoned who had been sentenced for a violent crime after suffering years of domestic violence.

McCafferty was already scheduled for release in December for participating in educational programs, working while in prison, and good behavior.

Two women, Barbara S. Sarabia of Versailles and Pearlie Sue Gambrel of Flatlick, were on parole and had their sentences commuted to time served.

Three women, Teresa Vincent of Campbellsburg, Gabrielle Cecil of Louisville and Tamara E. Wilson of Somerset, had completed their sentences and were given pardons.

Beshear said all of the women were reviewed extensively by the Department for Public Advocacy and the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association. Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who was governor before Beshear, issued similar pardons at the close of his term. Beshear's office said Fletcher issued just over 100 pardons during his single four-year term.

"I spent many long days weighing the merits and circumstances of individual cases before making my final decisions," Beshear said in a news release. "The pardon authority afforded me by Section 77 of the Kentucky Constitution isn't something I take lightly. We are talking about action that impacts the lives of so many individuals."

Beshear said others were pardoned for a variety of offenses, including drug convictions.

The actions capped off a flurry of activity from Beshear in his final days as governor. He issued an executive order that automatically restored the voting rights of some convicted felons who had completed their sentences and had no pending charges. He ordered nursing homes and health care providers to run national background checks on all new employees or risk losing their license to operate in the state. And he increased rates paid to child care providers for low-income parents in Kentucky's Child Care Assistance Program.