Editorial: For sake of credibility, Fletcher should let his sister-in-law go

January 07, 2004

Give Ernie Fletcher credit for feeding the hungry.

The state's big newspapers, which have never had a good thing to say about the state's new governor anyway, went into a feeding frenzy this week over the hiring of the governor's sister-in-law for an executive secretary position in the Environmental & Public Protection Cabinet.

Yes, it was a tasty bit of news. State hiring freeze broken. A bit of nepotism in an administration that promised to "clean up the mess" in Frankfort. The only thing missing was some link to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the "Great Satan" of Kentucky liberals.

In a way, the story is pretty thin gruel.

For one thing, Rachel Fletcher's job only pays about $25,000, according an Associated Press report, not exactly a juicy plum off the political tree.


The hiring also fits in with the governor's money-saving reorganization of state cabinets. A cabinet spokesman pointed out that the size of the cabinet had gone from 1,600 employees to 3,400 employees and the extra help was needed to run the larger department. That's a defensible position.

And there has been no evidence presented that Rachel Fletcher was unsuited for the position, did not go through the normal interview process or was hired at the request of the governor.

The only thing about the Rachel Fletcher story that really sticks is that it looks bad.

Unfortunately, that's no small matter for the man who's trying to run a state government in the middle of a budget crisis.

Certainly, there will come a time when the state freeze has to be broken, but in this case Fletcher should have told his people in the Environmental & Public Protection Cabinet to find one of the 3,400 employees already on staff who could do the job they needed done.

Breaking the freeze so that his sister-in-law could be hired makes the governor look unserious about trying to make state government more efficient. How can he ask other departments - and, yes, other families - to make sacrifices when he's taken care of his own family first?

Soon, the governor's critics will return to the latest "Mitch McConnell runs Kentucky" story or their continual marveling at the fact that the people Fletcher appoints to various boards, commissions and high-level jobs are, in fact, (how amazing!) supporters of him and his party.

But for now, he has a real problem that needs to be fixed. He needs to correct the damage he has done to his credibility. He needs to apologize and let his sister-in-law go.

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