Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Patton denies ethics violations

Gov. accused of illegal favors

By Joe Biesk
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - Gov. Paul Patton filed a formal response Monday to ethics charges against him, denying that he violated state laws by doing favors for a former mistress.

Patton is accused of creating a conflict of interest by intervening on behalf of Tina Conner and her friends and business interests. Patton has acknowledged having an affair with Conner but has denied misusing his office.

In his response to the ethics charges Monday, Patton denied that his alleged actions, even if true, violated ethics laws or amounted to a conflict of interest. It also said part of the ethics commission's complaint - an assertion that Patton acted in derogation of the public interest - is "too vague and overbroad to be enforced."

The Executive Branch Ethics Commission, which has only civil jurisdiction, issued four charges on March 25.

It said it found probable cause to believe Patton intervened to get certification as a "disadvantaged business" for a construction company owned by Conner and her husband, Seth Conner. That entitled the company, ST Construction, to preferential treatment as a highway subcontractor, though no state contract was actually awarded, according to the administration.

The commission also said Patton influenced a decision by the state's vehicle enforcement agency to promote one of Conner's friends, Officer Monty Clark, to sergeant. The other charges allege that it was because of the affair that Tina Conner was appointed to the Kentucky Lottery Corp. board of directors and her husband, whom she has since divorced, was appointed to the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board, which funds farm diversification projects.

Conner's attorney, Fred Radolovich, said Patton's response was "politics as usual." He said he expects Conner to testify at Patton's ethics commission hearing whenever it's scheduled.

If the four charges are upheld after a hearing, Patton could face a $5,000 fine and a public reprimand. State and federal prosecutors are also investigating the case.

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