State Might Probe Hiring of Former Racing Official

The former executive director of the abolished Kentucky Racing Commission could face ethics charges because he accepted a position as a consultant with Churchill Downs, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

Bernie Hettel, who worked for the racing commission for 19 years, was asked to resign earlier this year after Gov. Ernie Fletcher replaced the commission with the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority. Churchill Downs hired him about a month ago.

Under "revolving-door" laws in Kentucky, upper-level state employees must wait six months after they leave state employment before they work for any person or business that does business with the state in the area they regulated, the Herald-Leader reported.

Churchill president Steve Sexton told the newspaper the track hired Hettel as a consultant on "all areas of racing where he thinks things can be modified to make them better." He said any potential conflict is "subject to interpretation."

Hettel declined to speak to the potential conflict. "I don't think I'm compelled to answer that," he told the Herald-Leader.

Jill LeMaster, executive director of the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, said there is a "potential violation." The commission will meet May 27 and could decide whether to investigate Hettel's relationship with Churchill.