August 29, 2005

Kentucky gov. declares amnesty in hiring scandal

FRANKFORT, Kentucky (Reuters) - Kentucky's Republican Gov.
Ernie Fletcher on Monday declared an amnesty for anyone charged
in an ongoing investigation of illegal political hiring of
state workers.

So far, a grand jury has indicted nine people in Fletcher's
administration on charges of violating laws that forbid hiring
on the basis of political allegiance.

Fletcher said he would appear before the grand jury on
Tuesday, but would refuse to answer questions.

"I cannot allow state government to continue to be consumed
by this game of political 'gotcha,' paralyzing our ability to
serve," Fletcher told reporters.

He excepted himself from his declaration of an amnesty,
saying he was "ready to stand up to this misguided display of
prosecutorial misconduct."

In 2003, Fletcher became the first Republican elected
governor of Kentucky since 1967. Several of his appointees have
been accused of replacing state employees with Republican
loyalists. Eight of those charged face misdemeanor charges and
one has been charged with felony obstruction of justice.

Kentucky Attorney General Greg Stumbo, a Democrat who has
run the four-month investigation, said Fletcher was undermining
the rule of law with his blanket amnesty.