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January 18, 2006

And the noodling continues

 So far this legislative session, only a few remarkably unremarkable acts have trickled through House and Senate committees, most of which haven’t held their first meeting. Meanwhile, questions remain about the governor’s office. Will or won’t the grand jury investigating alleged abuses of the merit system indict Gov. Fletcher, now that he’s pardoned everyone who’s been — or might be — charged in connection with the scandal except him?A report by WHAS-TV’s Mark Hebert last week provided a glimpse into a prosecutor’s mindset; Deputy Attorney General Pierce Whites characterized a secretly recorded phone call between whistleblower Doug Doerting and a Transportation Cabinet official as “one of several smoking guns.” In the Sept. 27, 2004 conversation, State District Highway Engineer Sam Beverage pitches merit jobs for three political friends, two of whom “were promised the same job by the governor’s office. So this was kind of a deal that was worked out, and it was a package deal … and they are all pretty political.”Asked if he’s worried about indictment, Fletcher told Hebert, “My conscience is clear on that; I never know what this attorney general is gonna do.” There’s speculation the attorney general will seek another 90-day extension for the grand jury. What seems to be missing from the smoking guns are the governor’s fingerprints. A court has given prosecutors permission to view some files and e-mail messages from Fletcher’s state and personal computers and his BlackBerry. If investigators can’t prove he broke state hiring laws by now, they might be wise, as columnist John David Dyche has suggested, to call it a day.Sen. Ernesto Scorsone, D-Lexington, thinks taxpayers have the right to know how much the investigation is costing, and he’s suing the state to find out. “So far, the public has been asked to pay a whopping $1.5 million for the private attorneys the administration claims it hired to respond to subpoenas,” Scorsone wrote in a column published in The Letter (www.TheLetterOnline.com). BY STEVE SHAW leo@leoweekly.comVisit www.KentuckyVotes.org to follow legislation filed in this legislative session.