Sunday, December 8, 2002

Patton says he nearly resigned over scandal

The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - Gov. Paul Patton said he nearly resigned after acknowledging an affair with Tina Conner, the western Kentucky nursing home operator who has sued Mr. Patton, accusing him of sexual harassment.

In an interview taped for WKYT-TV's Kentucky Newsmakers, Mr. Patton also acknowledged the pain he has caused, especially to his wife, Judi Patton.

"Certainly, Judi has been hurt," he said. "She's been treated wrong, and that's been very difficult on her. The personal part of it, I don't need to go in to."

The show was broadcast Saturday by the Lexington station.

Mr. Patton said during the taping Friday he came close to resigning after his public acknowledgement in September of his two-year affair.

"The truth of the matter is that I did get very close. Only at the strong urging of a lot of people around me did I not do that," Mr. Patton said.

Ms. Conner has filed a lawsuit against Mr. Patton, claiming that he misused his office to punish her nursing home in Hickman County after she ended the relationship.

Mr. Patton insisted again in the interview that the power of his office was not abused in any way, and he said he has not been interviewed by the FBI or state authorities investigating Ms. Conner's allegations.

Mr. Patton also said during the interview that the state may have to cut $11 million in its prison program to help solve the $500 million revenue shortfall it expects in this two-year budget.

Such a cut in corrections, he said, could mean setting free more than 1,000 non-violent criminals.

The Democratic governor would not say exactly what should be done to deal with the budget crisis, but he said state legislators need to consider all options when they come to Frankfort next month for the 2003 General Assembly.

Mr. Patton has been operating the state without a legislative-enacted budget since lawmakers adjourned earlier this year without approving a spending plan for the state.

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Patton says he nearly resigned over scandal