Kentucky Gov. Blocking Mine Safety Appointment of Ex-Fletcher Aide

April 23, 2008

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration is blocking the appointment of his predecessor’s top aide to Kentucky’s Mine Safety Review Commission.

Stan Cave, who was former Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s chief of staff, has objected to the claim by Beshear’s general counsel that Cave’s appointment wasn’t properly confirmed by the General Assembly.

Cave has stepped aside from the commission “under protest” until the issue is resolved, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

The Lexington lawyer said in a statement that he hasn’t decided what action, if any, to take, but said the issue “will ultimately have to be decided by the Kentucky Supreme Court.”

Fletcher, a Republican, appointed Cave to the mine safety commission in the final hours of his administration last year on Dec. 10 for a term on the commission that would expire May 23, 2010. Fletcher ran for re-election last year but was defeated by Beshear, a Democrat.

The Republican-led Senate approved Cave’s appointment to the mine safety commission at 12:46 a.m. on April 16, according to the vote roll call sheet.

But Ellen Hesen, general counsel for Beshear, contends in an April 18 letter to Cave that the Democratic-controlled House did not act on the appointment, as required by a state statute.

As a result, his seat on the commission has become vacant, she said.

Cave did not return phone calls Monday to his Lexington office and home, the newspaper said.

Beshear’s press secretary, Dick Brown, said the governor’s office of general counsel “is confident in its review of the law and believes it would be illegal to seat Mr. Cave on the board without approval of both chambers of the General Assembly.”

Cave said in a statement to the commission at its meeting on April 18 that his appointment was confirmed by the Senate in conformity with section 93 of the state Constitution.

It says: “Inferior state officers and members of boards and commissions, not specifically provided for in this Constitution, may be appointed or elected, in such manner as may be prescribed by law, which may include a requirement of consent by the Senate, for a term not exceeding four years, and until their successors are appointed or elected and qualified.”

Cave said the attempt to remove him violates the state Constitution and “is contrary to well-known precedent of the Kentucky Supreme Court.”

He said he has given his opinion to Hesen and C. Michael Haines, an attorney in the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet, which oversees the mine safety panel.

“I have a deep love of the institution of government as well as a respect for the office of the governor, regardless of party affiliation,” Cave said in his statement. “It is out of that respect I will step aside from the Mine Safety Review Commission until this issue is resolved.”

The three-member mine safety commission conducts hearings on willful and repeated violations of Kentucky’s mine safety laws.

The job does not have an annual salary, but commission members are paid about $490 a day for their work.

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