Saturday, May 10, 2003

Child-support lawsuit targets candidate

The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - A lawsuit pending in Fayette County accuses Greg Stumbo, a state representative and a candidate for attorney general, of delaying a case in which a Lexington woman was trying to collect child support for their 14-year-old son.

As attorney general, Stumbo would be the top child-support enforcement official in Kentucky.

Stumbo denied delaying the case and said he began paying regular child support last year for the boy after a DNA test confirmed he was the father.

But the boy's mother, who filed suit May 4, 2001, alleges the case was dogged with repeated delays - including a dispute about paternity.

"No mother of any child should be subject to the ordeal my family has undergone for simply asking a father to support his child," Travis Fritsch told the Courier-Journal. She said she dated Stumbo in 1987 when she was a victim's advocate for the Attorney General's Office and he was a legislator.

Fritsch's lawsuit, which asked for $1,057.75 a month in support and $42,443 in back payments, alleges a pattern of delays by Stumbo. She said in a 2001 motion he had a "repeated history of reaching agreements and then reneging."

Stumbo, 51, the House majority floor leader, said he doesn't see the case as an issue in the May 20 primary race against two other Democrats. In Kentucky, the attorney general serves as chairman of the Child Support Enforcement Commission, which administers collection of child support statewide.

"I've never violated a legal obligation," Stumbo said. "If anyone can produce any court order I've ever violated, I'll withdraw from the election."

But one of his primary opponents, former state Attorney General Chris Gorman, said he is aware of the case and believes it reflects on Stumbo's credibility and ability to enforce child-support collections.

"It appears he tried to avoid his responsibility," Gorman said. "How would you feel if you were a woman who wanted child support collected, and you wanted to state your case to the attorney general and found out he had been sued for not paying child support?"

State Auditor Ed Hatchett, the other Democratic candidate, declined to comment on Stumbo but said child-support collection is a vital part of the job.

"Our attorney general must bring to that role the moral high ground on the collection of child support," Hatchett said.

Stumbo said he was not certain the child was his before the legal action. Stumbo was married at the time the child was conceived; he has since divorced and remarried.

"I knew she had a child," he said. "I did not know the child was my child."

Fritsch disputed that and said Stumbo was aware of her pregnancy and the child's birth in 1988, and that he accepted the child as his from birth. He visited or called the child and sent presents and cards.

"We had an arrangement worked out for years," she said.

That stopped when she filed the lawsuit in 2001, Fritsch said.

The lawsuit alleges Stumbo had never disputed he was the father until Fritsch filed the suit seeking to enforce a private agreement it alleged she and Stumbo reached on child support.

Fritsch and Stumbo declined to say how much child support he pays, and court records don't show the amount because it was reached by agreement through the mediation.

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