Saturday, October 05, 2002

Patton seeks Conner leak

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT - Anyone in his office who leaked word of a state inspection to nursing home owner Tina Conner should admit it if the allegation is true, Gov. Paul Patton said Friday.

        “As I found out real quick, it's going to come out sooner or later,” he said. “As far as I'm concerned, sooner is better.”

        Mr. Patton was alluding to his initial denial of an extramarital affair with Ms. Conner - an affair he then tearfully and publicly acknowledged.

        Ms. Conner now is suing Mr. Patton and the state for sexual harassment.

        She also claims that an employee of his office tipped her before a state inspection of her nursing home, Birchtree Healthcare in Clinton.

        Her attorney said she gave a name to state and federal investigators on Tuesday.

        Mr. Patton's general counsel, Denis Fleming, questioned an unspecified number of employees of the governor's office on Wednesday and said he turned up no evidence of a tipster.

        Mr. Patton said there was “nobody in the office that will admit that they have done something.” Nor does he have evidence to the contrary, he said. Ms. Conner accuses Mr. Patton of causing state regulators to run her nursing home into bankruptcy after she ended their relationship in 1999. That alleged misuse of power now is the subject of investigations by the Kentucky attorney general, U.S. attorneys, the FBI and the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.

        The ethics commission this week subpoenaed records from the governor's office; the Cabinet for Health Services, which regulates nursing homes; the Transportation Cabinet, which gave another of Ms. Conner's companies enhanced eligibility for state contracts, and the Kentucky Lottery Corp., of which Ms. Conner is a board member, appointed by Mr. Patton.

        Mr. Patton has denied he did anything illegal or that Ms. Conner got more assistance from his administration than anyone else would.

        It is not unusual for him or someone on his staff to “call somewhere out in the bureaucracy” on behalf of a complaining taxpayer, Mr. Patton said.

        But to the bureaucrats, “Rule 1 is don't do anything wrong. Do what you think is appropriate. ... I cannot recall a circumstance where I have ordered anybody to do anything,” he said.

        Mr. Patton said he would not resign - that “at this point in time it would be irresponsible for me to resign.”

        “The administration of state government is dependent upon the staff that I have around me and the cabinet secretaries,” he said. “As long as that structure remains intact, my ability to administer government is superior to anybody's that would come into this office and try to put together a new management team.”

        Mr. Patton declined to talk about his family. First lady Judi Patton left the capital prior to her husband's public acknowledgement on Sept. 20 of the affair with Ms. Conner. She made one return trip to the Executive Mansion for a private luncheon Tuesday.

        Asked who was living at the mansion now, Mr. Patton said: “The governor.”


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