Governor Ernie Fletcher’s Communication Office
Governor challenges Attorney General to join him in moving Kentucky forward
Almost two years ago, I was elected by Kentuckians to restore Hope and Opportunity.
It was a tough first year. When I arrived here we had a billion-dollar deficit. It would have been easier in the short term if I had just raised taxes. But, I chose the tougher road – to reform government.
I instituted the largest reorganization the state has ever seen. I cut spending and cut the number of state employees while providing better service to all Kentuckians.
We turned a deficit into a 214 million dollar surplus in just a little over 18 months. I’ve recruited new businesses to come to Kentucky from all over the globe. Our economy is now growing at a rate that hasn’t been seen in a long time – in fact – over a decade. Revenue is up – not because we raised taxes, but because we have created a wealthier state.
Change is difficult in Frankfort and we fight against decades of inertia – but we are finally beginning to see the results.
We still have major challenges facing us – the most significant, affordable health care and the fight against illegal drugs.
We came to Frankfort determined to change the culture. One of the things we wanted to do was create a level playing field for every Kentuckian.
We made changes, and sure, we made mistakes. Some of our senior executives made management mistakes, including inadequate oversight of young managers. Some of our overeager young managers made mistakes in judgment that in the age of e-mails is evident for all to see.
For those mistakes, the buck stops here, no matter the political consequences. But young professionals who left the private sector to serve their state should not pay for those mistakes by spending their life savings on lawyers.
Some of our supporters say, we have not done anything our predecessors didn’t do, except Democrats used the phone and we used e-mail. Some of our detractors say we have become part of what we promised to clean up.
For nearly two years now, I have worked hard every day to do the best job I can as your Governor. And I have never – let me repeat never – knowingly violated any laws while doing so. My conscience is clear.
Make no mistake about it: This investigation, which is diverting our administration’s attention away from the people’s business, appears to be a political investigation.
The statute used to justify these investigations has been described in a 1993 study, commissioned by Governor Jones, as being vague and confusing. In fact, it has never been used in this fashion to indict any employee of Kentucky state government.
What is serious is the fact that Greg Stumbo’s office has focused its energy and resources, including those of the Kentucky Bureau of Investigation, toward reviewing hundreds of thousands of state e-mails while other priorities are going by the wayside.
What we’re talking about in this investigation is people recommending friends and relations who may have worked in a political campaign. To reiterate, mistakes were made, but at no time was there a cynical scheme to displace thousands of hard working state employees.
Let me put these charges – that have cost millions of your tax dollars into perspective.
Do you know what noodling is?
Noodling is the sport of catching fish with your bare hands rather than bothering to bait your hook. There actually is a noodling season in Kentucky and the General Assembly has deemed that the penalty for noodling out of season -- is comparable to most of the indictments handed down so far – a misdemeanor.
Some of the indictments are the equivalent of conspiring to commit noodling out of season. And the one person charged with felony indictments is accused of the legal equivalent of covering up noodling out of season.
At a time when we are facing a multi billion dollar unfunded liability in our public employee retirement system, Greg Stumbo is wasting your tax dollars on an unprecedented investigation resulting in a handful of charges that are tantamount to noodling out of season.
At a time when the average Kentuckian is deeply worried about the cost and availability of health care, and while those same health care problems are presenting a tremendous hurdle to our state budget, he has neglected to adequately pursue fraud and abuse in our state’s Medicaid program.
Now you tell me, which is a more important reason to spend millions of your tax dollars?
By the way noodling season in Kentucky ends at sundown tomorrow.
I now have a choice.
I cannot allow state government to continue to be consumed by this game of political “gotcha” – paralyzing our ability to serve you, the people of Kentucky.
It may not be good politics, but I believe after many long nights of prayer and much counsel – that it is now time for me to use the power you vested in me – to do all I can to stop this sad course of events.
I cannot stand by and watch your tax dollars being wasted and lives being destroyed in such a manner.
First, I shall attend tomorrow’s grand jury proceedings because the law requires it. I shall not, however, speak before this body because this entire process has become a political tool of Greg Stumbo.
Second, in order to bring closure, I am today exercising the power conferred upon me by §77 of the Constitution of Kentucky to grant amnesty to all persons who might otherwise be charged with violating the merit system laws.
I am making one exception to this blanket amnesty. In spite of the fact that I have the authority to do so – I will not pardon myself.
Even though I am very disappointed at the abuse of our justice system throughout this entire affair, I am ready to stand up to this misguided display of prosecutorial misconduct.
I will not be intimidated.
This is not just an act of grace for these individuals but – as the framers of the Kentucky Constitution specifically said in the debates – amnesty promotes the welfare of the general public by putting a tumultuous episode behind us, avoiding a protracted, costly series of legal proceedings that leave honest people in financial ruin, with ruined reputations, and divert our leaders from doing the people’s business.
Greg Stumbo has asserted that issuing pardons before trial and conviction is contrary to the rule of law; but that assertion is on the wrong side of history. In 1792, the framers of the first Kentucky Constitution wisely vested in the Governor, the power to grant amnesty before indictments.
In 1891, the framers of our present Constitution vigorously debated that provision and overwhelmingly retained this power to grant amnesty as an essential part of Kentucky’s system of justice. The Governor’s grant of pardons is, in fact, part of the rule of law created by our Founders just for such situations as presently confront the Commonwealth.
Some will say that by accepting these pardons, these individuals are admitting guilt to some unspecified violation. But those pundits would ignore the history of our Constitution.
When the framers debated §77 in 1891, then Governor Buckner told the Convention that a person accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty and, when pardoned before conviction, remains forever presumed innocent.
The power to grant amnesty is conferred upon the Governor to quell a tumultuous situation and get on with the people’s business. I therefore call upon the Attorney General to honor this amnesty in spirit as well as in law, to take the necessary steps to end this.
These folks who have been accused by Greg Stumbo are good people. Some have made mistakes because of inexperience, and a complicated, unclear merit law.
But inexperience and ignorance are not reasons to avoid responsibility, either by those who made the mistakes, or by me. No one will avoid accountability.
In fact, these cases in question are currently being reviewed by both the Ethics Commission and the State Personnel Board – where any possible action belonged in the first place – and whatever sanctions deemed appropriate by these bodies will be imposed.
The power to pardon I take very seriously. It was given to governors for such a time as this.
Some political experts have said that this action could very well ruin my political career. I’ll leave that in the hands of you, the Kentucky voters. Our Commonwealth is far too important to suffer for the career of one person.
And it’s time for someone to stand up to these misguided antics and the abuse of power we have seen in the actions of Greg Stumbo.
That time is now.