Sunday, January 26, 2003

FBI, attorney general search Transportation computers

The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - Agents for the FBI and Kentucky attorney general served a search warrant Friday on the Transportation Cabinet.

Cabinet officials said the warrant was part of an investigation of its Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, through which companies headed by women and minorities can get preferential treatment as highway subcontractors.

A western Kentucky construction company was certified for the program while its co-owner, Tina Conner, was having an affair with Gov. Paul Patton. However, no subcontract ever was awarded to the company, ST Construction, according to state officials. Mr. Patton, who has acknowledged the affair, denies that Ms. Conner got any illegal treatment from his administration.

The warrant, which the cabinet released, seeks "electronic data" in desktop computers of four people: Transportation Secretary James Codell and Cheryl Caldwell, his administrative assistant; Rick Stansel, director of the agency's Division of Contract Procurement; and Kevin Flanery, who was Mr. Codell's deputy secretary but later became secretary of finance and has since left state government.

Transportation spokesman Mark Pfeiffer said he did not know what, if anything, was taken by investigators.

Ronald Derricks, who worked in the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program for 18 years but was fired in February, has said there was "a little bit more than subtle pressure applied" to get ST Construction certified.

Mr. Patton has said he called Mr. Codell on Ms. Conner's behalf but did not ask Mr. Codell to approve her application.

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