Wednesday, May 02, 2001

Kentucky politics

Law firm specialty: Getting rid of mayors

        Notch up another victim for Taliaferro and Mehling, the bad-to-the-bone Covington law firm that takes out mayors like George Steinbrenner used to take out managers.

        The latest mayor to go down is Tom Stacy of Ludlow. He plans to resign Friday because of health reasons. He's probably sick of all the investigations, allegations and other nastiness going on in the city.

        Lawyer Chris Mehling has been working for the past few months as a special counsel in Ludlow, looking into, among other things, how money was being spent and talk of abuse of power by some city officials.

        Seems whenever Mr. Mehling or his partner, Big Phil Taliaferro, start poking around a city, the mayor bails or is booted, either through impeachments or resignations.

        It's happened in Williamstown with Bob Jones, Dayton with Bobby Crittendon, Villa Hills with Steve Clark, and now Ludlow with Mr. Stacy.

        So if you're a mayor and you get a call from Chris or Big Phil, just throw up you hands and give in. It's over.

        Oh, Henry. The long-awaited state audit into the expenses of the October wedding of Lt. Gov. Steve Henry and former Miss America Heather Renee French was released Tuesday.

        As expected, Kentucky Auditor Ed Hatchett found that state employees donated lots of hours to help plan the big gala as well as help Mrs. Henry book appearances.

        And, as previously reported, the couple has had to reimburse the state for some expenses.

        “State employees performing duties that inure to the personal financial gain of a state official or his family creates that appearance of an inappropriate use of an official position, even if those employees take personal leave to do so,” the audit said.

        Mr. Henry immediately put out a statement insisting no state money was spent on the wedding. And Mr. Hatchett acknowledged that no laws were broken, no state money was used to pay for the wedding and no state employees were improperly paid for working on planning the wedding.

        Not exactly Watergate, but in the hands of a political foe — and Mr. Henry has plenty of those as he gears up for the 2003 Democratic gubernatorial primary — this audit will linger like a St. Patrick's Day hangover.

        A shrewd political consultant will dig in that report, mining the sound bites and campaign ads that will certainly be used against Mr. Henry in the future.

        And don't forget, a federal grand jury in Louisville is still looking into allegations that Mr. Henry — an orthopedic surgeon — illegally billed government funded health care programs.

        As far as the audit, it wouldn't appear to be all that damaging. But it certainly looks bad. And in the context of a political campaign, looking bad can be just as damaging as actually being bad.

        Get in line. As if our local political scene wasn't, shall we say, “colorful” enough, we get this from some guy named Mike Wiley.

        Mr. Wiley is a former radio talk show host in Florida who ran against Hugh Rodham — Hillary Clinton's brother — in a 1994 U.S. Senate race.

        Then a Democrat, Mr. Wiley lost the race. But now he's a Republican who recently moved to Florence and is thinking about taking on U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, a Boone County Democrat.

        Hey, jump on in. The Republicans already have one candidate — Geoff Davis of Boone County — nobody's ever heard of. Might as well get another one.

       Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics for the Enquirer. He can be reached at (859) 578-5581.


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