Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Stench in Frankfort, Lexington

Kentucky Governor Beshear came into office spouting the usual “clean up the mess in Frankfort” stuff that is the common mantra for all incoming governors. This time, he would correct the shortcomings of the Fletcher administration. Whether he claimed it to be his goal or not, Fletcher was to clean up the mess left by Governor Patton, who disgraced both himself and the office, not only with his state-trooper transportation to various rendezvous sites for his dalliances with a woman not his wife but also his pardons for four men whose testimony in court might have put him in the Big House.

Fletcher was perhaps more a creature of the system, though naivete is a poor argument, and saw fit to pardon a number of folks who were caught up in shenanigans having to do with patronage, though political payback was largely the root of his trouble, him being a republican and all. Beshear is up to his ears with corruption so obvious that he would be better served to not even mention it. His chief-of-staff was in business with one of the highest profile lobbyists in Frankfort but the guv didn’t actually see anything wrong with that. This is the “see no evil, speak no evil” nonsense that permeates the capital.

A friend of Beshear’s chief-of-staff needed a job so the guv gave him one for which the appointee had no experience at a cool $80 thou a year. The political appointee indicated that he was strapped for cash, so the guv just upped the salary to a cooler $100 thou a year for someone with no experience in the job. After all, the state treasury paid the freight, not the guv, and somebody else most likely would do the work. Actually, that seems to be the case since the appointee VOILA! had a deputy with knowledge of the job at a paltry $63,756 per year, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. This means that the $100,000 was a gift courtesy of the taxpayers. It also means he was never necessary, and that Beshear should repay state government for every day his political appointee was “on the job.”

One other problem: Beshear didn’t have the authority to set the salary either time. He pleaded ignorance of that bothersome detail, of course, surely knowing full well that every citizen would see the whole matter as just another instance of the expected graft found in every administration. He pleaded ignorance in the face of a 25% salary increase overnight at a time when state workers are looking at unpaid days off or something like that? The appointee has resigned, after having fed at the state trough for years in one job or another, but the stench in the governor’s office remains.

The top guys running Bluegrass Airport were woefully underpaid so they used their company credit cards to make up the difference between what they earned and what they thought they should get. The top guy made a paltry $200,000 a year, while his four lieutenants made between $135 thou and $140 thou. They also got free gas and a car to go along with it. That simply wasn’t enough so they turned out to be two-bit crooks. Most have resigned and the rest should. That beats getting fired, maybe, but can they draw unemployment? They were responsible to the Airport Board, which might as well not have existed, and the local government. One wonders how deep the corruption reaches. How much does it take to get the right official to look the other way?

These are just recent examples of a cancer that bedevils every administration and threatens to eat the state alive. There’s little belief here that the appointee resigned on his own...nah, the guv, probably through his squeaky-clean chief-of-staff, gave him the word. The same is true of the inordinately overpaid airport gang...they could either resign or be fired. The tragedy is that their little game had probably been going on for a lot longer than just the recent short timeframe noted by the newspaper, which should be thanked by everyone for blowing the whistle on these tinhorn crooks, including the governor. If the paper hadn’t blown the whistle, that appointee would be set for at least three more years or so, doing nothing and letting the taxpayers keep him up...probably even getting another raise of 25%. Disgusting!

And so it goes.

Jim Clark


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