Republicans have expressed dismay with Gov. Paul Patton's reappointment of eight members and appointment of three new ones to the Kentucky Racing Commission in the final month of his term, and they have called on the commissioners to resign. All but one of the terms expired, some several years ago.
Patton is a Democrat. On Nov. 4, Kentucky elected Congressman Ernie Fletcher, who will take over Dec. 9 as the state's first Republican governor in 32 years.
Among those reappointed are commission chairman Frank Shoop, whose term would run through March 30, 2006. Executive director Bernie Hettel, who has served through five administrations, was reappointed through April 16, 2005.
"This is a disappointing action in what has otherwise been a smooth transition," Daniel Groves, Fletcher's chief of staff, said in a prepared statement. "Kentuckians overwhelmingly gave us a mandate to bring real change to state government, and that includes the racing commission. Governor-elect Fletcher calls upon these newly appointed and reappointed members of the racing commission to not accept this offer."
The commission has been subject to state investigations in recent years. Shoop, at one time finance chairman for the Democratic Party, couldn't be immediately reached for comment.
"It think it's a disgrace, frankly, that the governor would play politics at the 11th hour with the regulatory body for Kentucky's signature industry," said Republican Sen. Damon Thayer, an advocate for the racing industry. "This clearly thwarts the will of the people that gave Governor-elect Fletcher a mandate. I strongly urge the members of the racing commission to submit their resignations Dec. 10."
It remains to be seen what action Fletcher would take should the commissioners refuse to resign.
Last year, when asked why the commission had so many expired terms, Bill Beam Jr., director of boards and commissions for Patton, said it's not unusual. At the time, he said there was "full utilization by the board."
"Obviously, the governor is pleased with the current lineup of board members," Beam said in the spring of 2002. "They will continue to serve until a decision is made as to whether they will be reappointed."
Patton named Mary Glasscock of Louisville, Pamela Mathis-Yon of Lexington, and trainer John Ward Jr. of Paris to the panel. They will replace Lon Fields, Dr. V.L. Fisher, and Nate Sholar.
Other reappointed members are Sam Bowie, Wayne Carlisle, Alice Chandler, Frank Jones Jr., Richard Klein, Barbara Tway Partlow, and Robert Stallings. Jones is the only one whose term hadn't expired.
Patton had no comment on his decision, spokeswoman Chris Kellogg told the Lexington Herald-Leader.