Judge-executive Resigns in Wake of Vote-buying Conviction

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A county-judge executive from the Kentucky Bluegrass region's outskirts followed a federal court order to resign Monday after his conviction for conspiring to buy votes.

Bath County Judge-Executive Walter Bascom Shrout resigned his office in a one-sentence letter to Gov. Ernie Fletcher. Shrout, convicted Friday of conspiracy to buy votes in last year's primary election, said his resignation was effective as of noon.

"I sure am," Shrout said of resigning, in a telephone interview. "I have no choice."

The 54-year-old Shrout, a Sharpsburg Democrat, also was found guilty of obstruction of justice and making false statements to a federal agent.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher is likely to appoint a replacement within 30 days, a spokesman said. A special election for voters to pick a permanent replacement would be on the ballot in the November general election.

Last Friday, U.S. District Judge Joseph M. Hood gave Shrout until noon EDT on Monday to resign.

Shrout, who was indicted in November, is facing a maximum fine of $250,000 and up to 10 years in prison. His sentencing was scheduled for July 9.

Shrout said he was planning to spend much of Monday emptying his office but did not have further comment.

"I've got a lot of stuff to clean up," Shrout said.

Eleven others were indicted on federal vote fraud charges stemming from the investigation.

With Shrout's departure from county government, three elected offices in Bath County are vacant.

Property Valuation Administrator Paul Goodpaster died in February, and Hood ordered Bath County Attorney Donald "Champ" Maze to resign after he pleaded guilty - on the fifth day of his trial - to paying three people up to $200 to vote for him in the primary election.

Maze is facing a maximum $250,000 fine and up to five years in prison, and he's scheduled for sentencing on May 7.

Shrout won a three-way primary in May 2006, gathering 2,677 votes, 1,516 more than second-place finisher Mike Swartz, according to the Bath County clerk's office. Swartz has also pleaded guilty to vote buying.

Rep. Carolyn Belcher, D-Owingsville, said the community was trying to move on from the episode.

"I know we're all just looking forward to getting all this behind us," Belcher said.

Commissioner Billy Martin, a Sharpsburg Democrat, said he and the two other county commissioners met Monday morning and decided to run the county until Fletcher appoints a successor.

Martin said he thought Shrout did the "best job he could" and didn't believe the former judge-executive did anything wrong.

"He's a real man, he just got hooked up in the wrong feud, I think," Martin said.

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

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