Thursday, January 30, 2003

Name remains, ceremony off for late lawmaker

It will be Pete Worthington lodge but without unveiling

The Associated Press

MOUNT OLIVET - Friends and family of a woman killed in a drunken driving accident gathered to protest the naming of a lodge at Blue Licks State Resort Park for a dead legislator who caused the fatal crash.

His name will remain, but state officials canceled an unveiling ceremony.

State Rep. Pete Worthington, who was instrumental in the lodge's creation, caused his own death and that of another motorist in October 2000.

His pickup crossed a center line on U.S. 68 near Maysville and ran head-on into a car driven by Sherri Chambers, a highway construction worker.

The ceremony was scheduled Wednesday morning, and Gov. Paul Patton planned to attend.

But a number of officials decided Tuesday night to cancel the event, Patton spokesman Rusty Cheuvront said.

Instead, Tourism Development Secretary Ann Latta went to Blue Licks alone to read a statement in which she said plans for the ceremony "reawakened the pain and grief of the family members of Sherri Chambers, the young mother who was an innocent victim in the tragic car crash that also took the life of state Rep. Pete Worthington."

"It was never our intent to do that or to show any disrespect to her memory," Latta said.

Joyce Bradburn, executive director of Kentucky Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said it was a "thoughtless decision" to name the lodge for Worthington and insensitive, not just to the Chambers family, but to other victims of drunken driving.

"Mr. Worthington's actions tore a mother of two young children away from her family," Bradburn said.

She said about 30 of Chambers' friends and relatives held a candlelight vigil at the park Wednesday.

She said the Chambers family and others contacted MADD.

"We had received numerous phone calls to our office from victims across the state, who felt revictimized all over again," Bradburn said.

The lodge still will bear Worthington's name, Latta said in an interview at the Capitol in Frankfort.

Worthington, a Democrat who lived in neighboring Mason County, used his seniority on the powerful House appropriations committee to secure the lodge's funding.

A conference center at the park already was named for him at the time of his death, and his funeral was conducted there.

Latta said no one from her agency thought to inform Chambers' relatives of plans for a ceremony.

"In hindsight, that would have been the thing to do," Latta said.

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