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Attorney general: Lexington police broke records law by demanding address of man who sought documents about shooting of dog

By Will Wright
wwright@herald-leader.com

The Lexington Division of Police violated Kentucky’s Open Records Act in January when it required a man seeking records about the 2010 shooting of a dog by a police officer to provide his address, the state Office of Attorney General has ruled.

Tyler Fryman, who lives in Bourbon County, appealed to the attorney general’s office after police required Fryman to provide his address before fulfilling his request for documents related to the shooting by Lexington police officer Aaron Greenleaf. The Open Records Act does not require a person to provide an address unless they want the documents mailed to them.

Greenleaf shot the dog six times after it bit him as he ran through the back yard of a Lexington home while pursuing a suspect on foot. The bite did not draw blood and Greenleaf was not hospitalized. Police defended the officer’s decision at the time, saying he did not violate any policy and that he had the right to be in the back yard because he was pursuing a suspect.

Fryman told the Herald-Leader Monday that he requested the documents because he was interested to know what happened in the case. Fryman said he regularly makes requests for documents — about one a day — from various government agencies.

The city told attorney general investigators that the police department “could not be sure if and when Mr. Fryman would show up at police headquarters, so without a valid address, a response could not be given in three business days.”

To comply with the Open Records Act, public offices must respond to requests within three business days.

Fryman said there was no reason for the police to ask for his address, considering that he was able and willing to come to Lexington to review the documents.

“What if you were homeless?” Fryman asked. “Does a homeless person not have the same rights … to open records?”

Susan Straub, a city spokeswoman, declined to comment on the attorney general’s decision, which carry’s the weight of law unless appealed in Fayette Circuit Court.

Fryman also alleged that police made him pay for the documents even though he requested to view them in police headquarters. State law allows a person to review documents without paying for them. If a copy is requested, the cost is 10 cents per page.

The attorney general ruled that police did not violate this portion of the Open Records Act, citing a lack of evidence.

Police charged a fee for copying the documents and Fryman left the office with the records, according to the attorney general’s office.

Police told state investigators that “it is believed” Fryman paid for the copies without saying that he preferred to view them in the office.

Fryman said Monday that police knew he wanted to view the documents in the police station, but that a police employee refused to give him the documents without paying.

Conway and Overly agree to appear at six forums or debates with Bevin and Hampton

conwaysetupJack Conway’s Democratic gubernatorial campaign on Monday released a schedule of six forums where Conway or his running mate, state Rep. Sannie Overly of Paris, plan to appear alongside their Republican opponents, Louisville financier Matt Bevin and Jenean Hampton.

“I look forward to a serious discussion with my opponent about the issues that matter most to Kentucky families,” Conway, finishing his second term as attorney general, said in a statement.

Ben Hartman, Bevin’s campaign manager, said: “We have agreed to some (of the forums) and are in the process of scheduling the rest. As Matt has said numerous times since Election Day, we would like as many debates as possible.”

Matt BevinThe schedule offered by Conway is:

June 19: Kentucky County Judge-Executive Association summer conference at the Galt House in Louisville.

July 23: Kentucky Farm Bureau “Measure the Candidates” forum at KFB state headquarters in Louisville.

Oct. 6: Centre College in Danville. This will be broadcast on television.

Oct. 19: Kentucky Educational Television’s Kentucky Tonight forum for lieutenant governor candidates in Lexington. This will be broadcast on statewide television.

Oct. 25: Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. This will be broadcast on television.

Oct. 26: KET’s Kentucky Tonight forum for gubernatorial candidates in Lexington. This will be broadcast on statewide television.

Beshear raises pay of about 800 state workers to $10.10 an hour

Gov. Steve Beshear By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

Gov. Steve Beshear is raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for hundreds of the lowest-paid workers in Kentucky’s executive branch of government, a move cheered by his Democratic supporters and ridiculed as an abuse of power by key Republican lawmakers.

Beshear, who will leave office in December, ceremonially signed an executive order Monday afternoon at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington to raise the pay of nearly 800 state workers starting July 1. The current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

Tipped employees — such as those who work in state park restaurants — will see their wages more than doubled to $4.90 an hour.

The wage increases will cost about $1.6 million, and less than $800,000 of that cost will come from the General Fund, Beshear said. Other sources of money, he said, include federal dollars, the state Road Fund and various state agency accounts.

Hundreds of state government workers care for veterans in nursing homes, maintain parks and help adults with mental disabilities for about $15,000 a year, the governor said.

“That’s a disgrace,” Beshear said. “Raising their pay is a moral imperative.”

The Democratic governor also challenged employers in the private and public sectors to follow the lead of the state’s largest employer, and he contended that common arguments against raising the wage don’t hold up to scrutiny.

“I call on every business leader and local government to take a hard look at the facts,” Beshear said. “Paying our people a living wage isn’t a fiscal backbreaker, and the impacts will be extraordinarily beneficial.”

State lawmakers have debated in recent years whether to raise the minimum wage, with House Democrats pushing the idea and Senate Republicans blocking the measure.

The General Assembly can review Beshear’s order when legislators return to session in early January, but it would be difficult for them to lower state workers’ wages. The next governor also could roll back Beshear’s order, but Beshear said Monday he doubts that will happen.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, accused Beshear of taking “a page out of the Obama administration’s playbook by forcing through failed legislation by executive action.”

“It seems Gov. Beshear apparently now understands he doesn’t have to pass another budget and feels comfortable in adding to the strain on Kentucky’s finances,” Hoover said.

Hoover said Beshear’s decision to expand Medicaid eligibility under the federal Affordable Care Act, combined with a growing unfunded liability in the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System, “will increase the budgetary structural imbalance in excess of $250 million, which the General Assembly will have to address immediately.”

“Today’s action will have repercussions long after Gov. Beshear has left office,” he said.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said he hopes Beshear’s action “does not cause any future-year fiscal problems.”

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he would support raising the minimum wage for legislative branch employees and hopes the Senate will approve his proposal to increase the minimum wage statewide next year.

Leigh Anne Hiatt said the judicial branch’s lowest-paid, full-time position begins at $11.53 per hour and increases to $12.10 an hour after the employee completes probation.

The change will affect 510 state workers in the executive branch who earn less than $10 an hour. An additional 269 who earn about $10 an hour will see a small raise. Tipped employees will see an increase in their base hourly income from $2.19 an hour to $4.90 an hour, matching recent federal changes.

The new policy also requires private companies that have service contracts with state government to pay a minimum wage of at least $10.10 an hour to employees who perform work in connection with those government contracts. That requirement will be added to contracts as they come up for renewal.

Of the 510 employees who make less than $10 an hour, more than a third work for the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, many of them caring for Kentucky veterans in the state’s veterans nursing homes. Another 90 people work in behavioral health agencies, taking care of vulnerable Kentuckians. Other large groups of low-paid employees work at state parks and at the Department of Natural Resources.

“The irony here — and it’s an appalling irony — is that the people we have tasked with the difficult job of caring for our vulnerable populations are paid so little that they too are vulnerable, at least when it comes to financial security,” Beshear said.

Beshear said a raise of less than $3 an hour might be enough for some employees to move off government assistance programs. For example, a single person with no dependents working full-time at $10.10 an hour would no longer be eligible for food stamps or Medicaid.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services estimated that a statewide increase in the minimum wage would move 13,000 Kentuckians off Medicaid.

Beshear was pressed at his Lexington news conference about the timing of his policy change, given that his two four-year terms in office are concluding in a few months.

This year also is an election year for all state constitutional offices, including attorney general. His son, Democrat Andy Beshear, a Louisville attorney, is running for that office against state Sen. Whitney Westerfield, a Hopkinsville Republican.

Beshear, who held a similar news conference later Monday in Louisville, said Kentucky is coming out of a recession and the economy is improving.

“It’s time to share,” he said, noting that polling has consistently shown that a majority of Kentuckians favor raising the minimum wage.

Raising state government’s minimum wage would also help reduce turnover in low-paying jobs, cutting the costs of training, increasing productivity and reducing inefficiency, Beshear argued.

“As the economy accelerates, the job market grows more competitive,” Beshear said. “These critical state agencies need qualified workers to deliver services to our citizens.”

James Comer confirms that Rand Paul reached out with encouraging message

By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Republican gubernatorial candidate James Comer, under fire for allegations that he abused his college girlfriend, confirmed a report that U.S. Sen. Rand Paul reached out recently with a supportive message.

Politico reported Friday that Paul texted Comer after Monday night’s gubernatorial debate on KET with the message to keep his head up during trying times.

Comer did not elaborate on what Paul told him, but he did confirm to the Herald-Leader that the senator, who is running for president, contacted him with a supportive message.

Comer has repeatedly denied allegations that he was physically and verbally abusive to his college girlfriend.

Both Paul and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have declined to get publicly involved in the increasingly contentious Republican primary featuring Comer, retired state Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott and Louisville businessmen Hal Heiner and Matt Bevin.

Hal Heiner planning Saturday rally in James Comer’s hometown

ComerHeinerBy Sam Youngman and Bill Estep
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Republican gubernatorial candidate Hal Heiner plans to hold a rally in rival James Comer’s hometown of Tompkinsville on Saturday.

While four men are running to win the Republican nomination in the May 19 primary, the race has focused on Heiner and Comer in recent days after an ex-girlfriend accused Comer of assaulting her in the early 1990s and Heiner apologized to Comer for his campaign’s communication with a Lexington blogger who had for months spread the allegation of abuse without the woman’s permission.

Doug Alexander, Heiner’s spokesman, said the Saturday rally has nothing to do with the allegations against Comer.

“We go everywhere,” Alexander said, noting that Heiner has traveled the state extensively over the 61 weeks he has been running for governor.

Monroe County Judge-Executive Tommy Willett, who is supporting Comer, predicted there won’t be more than 30 people at the rally and questioned why Heiner would waste his time.

“He’s not gonna change one vote down here,” Willett said.

Willett said Comer held a rally in Tomkinsville Thursday night that was attended by 600 to 800 people.

He said the allegations against Comer have built a fire under his supporters.

“This stuff about him has really galvanized the people here,” Willett said. “It’s made’m mad and they’re working now.”

James Comer’s first TV ad for governor to begin airing Wednesday

Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer

By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer will begin running his first ad in the Republican primary for governor on Wednesday, touting his record as commissioner and proclaiming himself “a blue-collar guy.”

The ad, shared first with the Herald-Leader, features video clips from Comer’s entrance into the race last September at an event in his hometown of Tompkinsville.

“I represent the farmers, the teachers, the factor workers, all the hard-working middle-class Kentuckians,” Comer says in the introductory ad.

He pledges to run state government efficiently, making reference to his decision to shut down the state-run fuel testing lab established by his predecessor, Richie Farmer.

“After conducting an efficiency audit, Comer found that a previously established fuel lab project was costing Kentucky taxpayers $900,000 per year,” Comer’s campaign said in a news release. “He immediately privatized the project, sold the testing equipment and returned $1.65 million back to Kentucky taxpayers.”

The newspaper headline “Comer returns $1.65 million to state” appears on the screen as Comer says people want leaders who will “actually achieve.”

“You can operate government more efficiently,” Comer says. “We’ve proven that at the department of agriculture.”

Comer’s first ad comes about a year after Republican Hal Heiner, a former Louisville councilman, aired his first introductory ad. Heiner returned to the airwaves several weeks ago with ads that tout him as a “Frankfort outsider” and blast career politicians, who Heiner says “don’t have a clue” about how to create jobs.

Two other GOP contenders, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin and former state Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott, have not yet begun airing ads ahead of the May 19th primary election.

Bevin says he would’ve beaten Grimes ‘more handily’ than McConnell

Matt BevinBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Former U.S. Senate candidate and gubernatorial hopeful Matt Bevin appeared on a conservative radio show Wednesday where he continued to needle U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and questioned U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s sincerity in endorsing McConnell.

Bevin, appearing on the Wednesday edition of Wilkow Majority, was asked by host Andrew Wilkow if he watched Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes campaign against McConnell, after the senator defeated Bevin in the primary, and wondered if he could’ve beat her.

“I kid you not — I’d have beaten her more handily,” Bevin said.

Throughout the interview, Bevin levied shots at a number of the state’s political figures, hitting Grimes (“She’s no Hillary Clinton.”), Attorney General Jack Conway (“The embodiment of everything that is wrong with the plastic career politicians in this country.”) and McConnell’s “buzz saw” campaign.

“I’ve been through the buzz saw indeed,” Bevin said. “And I’ll tell you something, I don’t begrudge any of that that went down. That is the nature sadly of what politics has become.”

Wilkow, who joined the group Freedom Works at a Bevin for Senate rally last spring, joked with Bevin about Grimes’ refusal to say whether she voted for President Barack Obama.

“They had clearly not pre-selected the sound-byte that she was to be provided, and it’s a shame,” Bevin said. “Unfortunately, as a result of that, Kentucky didn’t really have it’s best foot out forward perhaps on that side from the Democrats.”

Bevin also appeared to quibble with McConnell’s stewardship of the U.S. Senate since he became majority leader last month.

“The solutions to what is gonna fix America are not coming from the top down,” Bevin said. “You look already, we have majorities now in congress and in the Senate, and look we’re making some of the same excuses we made when we didn’t.”

Josh Holmes, the senior adviser to McConnell’s re-election campaign, said in an email Thursday afternoon that “at some point you have to start asking whether Matt Bevin should be medicated.”

“The guy has no grasp on reality whatsoever and his delusions of grandeur are simply breathtaking,” Holmes said.

Wilkow described Paul, who endorsed McConnell in his re-election effort, as someone who endorsed the establishment candidate but was torn in doing so, asking Bevin if it was “painful” that Paul did not endorse him.

Bevin said Paul reminded him of “the Violent Femmes song ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?'” Wilkow corrected Bevin, noting that it was The Clash who sang that song.

“I know Rand well,” Bevin said, calling Paul’s endorsement of McConnell a “conscientious decision.”

“I’ve known him from the beginning,” Bevin said. “I was one of the people who supported him early on and maxed out when others didn’t.”

When asked if he thought either McConnell or Paul might endorse him in his race to be governor, Bevin said he had every indication both would stay neutral, calling that the “proper thing to do.”

While he largely spared his current Republican opponents, Bevin repeated that his life experience and “knowledge of issues” separates him from the three Republicans running against him.

“I would love to just have a debate at any moment in time with any of the candidates in this race,” Bevin said.

The candidate closed out the show by noting that while much of the audience doesn’t live in Kentucky, they should check out his website and contribute to his campaign.

Controversial McConnell mailer wins campaign awards

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

A direct mail piece that Mitch McConnell’s campaign sent to Eastern Kentuckians in the closing days of last year’s U.S. Senate race, prompting a lawsuit from Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes, won several campaign awards last week.

When Campaigns and Elections magazine handed out its annual Reed Awards in Las Vegas Friday night, McConnell’s “Fraud Alert” mailer, which Democrats decried as an attempt at voter suppression, won five awards, including “best direct mail piece for 2014.”

The outside of the mailer described it as an “Election Violation Notice,” and on the inside listed areas where the McConnell campaign said Grimes was trying to mislead voters.

Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst called the mailer “despicable,” and Grimes sought an injunction against distributing the mailer in Franklin County Circuit Court. A judge denied the request.

The mail piece, produced by the Lukens Company, also won for “best direct mail piece for Republican statewide candidate,” “best mail piece for a bare-knuckled street fight
victory,” “toughest direct mail piece” and “most daring and successful tactic.”

McConnell’s campaign also won for best website and “best use of social media targeting,” with credit going to GOP tech guru Vince Harris’s firm. Harris has since signed on with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.

McConnell beat Grimes by more than 15 percentage points.

Ashley Judd tells Washington paper she might run for office ‘some day’

[caption id="attachment_22443" align="alignright" width="168"]Ashley Judd Ashley Judd[/caption]Actress and Kentucky native Ashely Judd said this week that she was “shocked and disappointed” that Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes lost to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, adding that she might run for office “some day.”

According to The Hill newspaper in Washington, Judd said she doesn’t know if she will run for office in the future after publicly debating in 2013 a run against McConnell.

“That particular moment in time was unique,” Judd said, according to The Hill. “I was prepared to run, I was very excited.”

The paper quoted Judd as saying that she “had bizarre thoughts in the morning like ‘It’s a great day to raise $20 million’ — not that I think that’s a good thing in American politics, because we need massive campaign finance reform! But it was all systems go.”

“It was a real leap of faith on my part because I am not ego-free,” Judd said. “I had my own self-centered fear: people might think that I was dabbling or that I was flaky.”

Judd said she “couldn’t stop crying” as she considered a run against McConnell and talked to consultants, saying: “I was like, ‘What are you hearing me say?’ And they were very ego-less because they had a vested interest in my going forward. They said, ‘I’m hearing you say at this moment in your life, it’s too much, too soon.”

Grimes lost to McConnell by more than 15 percentage points, losing 110 of 120 counties as McConnell was swept into a sixth term in office and the role of majority leader of a new Republican-led Senate.

“Unfortunately, the commonwealth, in my opinion, didn’t make a change that’s going to help Congress emerge from gridlock, get things done, and enter into an era of transformation in American politics,” Judd said.

The Hill asked Judd if she had regrets about not running, to which Judd responded: “Of course I do.”

“I do believe I’m right where God wants me to be at this time,” the actress said.

Conway gets endorsement from key group in Western Kentucky

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway

By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Attorney General Jack Conway announced another coveted endorsement Thursday in his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, winning the support of the Kentucky Pipe Trades Association.

Though only one other Democrat, retired engineer and perennial candidate Geoff Young, has joined the race, Conway has worked hard in recent months to lock up critical endorsements of Democratic officials and organizations.

Thursday’s announcement was the latest show of support, and while the association might not be a household name, it is a key endorsement for Democrats running statewide who hope to do well in Western Kentucky.

“Sannie Overly and I are honored to have the support of the Kentucky Pipe Trades Association,” Conway said, referring to his running mate. “We will continue to stand up for working families across our commonwealth to move Kentucky forward.”

Six local unions that make up the association all joined in the endorsement.

“We are proud to support the Conway-Overly ticket,” Kyle Henderson, business manager for the Local 184 said in a statement. “Jack and Sannie have an excellent record of fighting for working families and
we know they are the clear choice for governor and lieutenant governor.”

Former U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford, Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth have all endorsed Conway.