AG sues Fletcher over trustee appointments

FRANKFORT — Two weeks after demanding that Gov. Ernie Fletcher secure the resignations of three UK trustees, Kentucky Attorney General Greg Stumbo has filed a lawsuit against the governor.

Stumbo, a Democrat, filed suit against Fletcher, a Republican, in Franklin Circuit Court yesterday. The suit requires that Fletcher respond within 20 days to Stumbo’s claim that the Republican majorities on the boards of trustees at UK and the University of Louisville violate state law.

“I asked him to voluntarily bring the boards into balance,” Stumbo said at a news conference yesterday. “Unfortunately, he has chosen not to do so and has left us no remedy but action in court.”

“This lawsuit is vintage Stumbo, being politically motivated,” said Fletcher’s general counsel, David Fleenor, in a statement yesterday. “As we have stated before, the Attorney General’s claim is neither grounded in fact nor warranted by law.

“We will file an appropriate response, which will likely include a request for the court to impose sanctions.”

Stumbo sent Fletcher a letter Aug. 27 demanding the removal of three Republican members of UK’s board. The board’s Republican majority, Stumbo said, violates a Kentucky law requiring the boards of trustees at the state’s public research universities to reflect the political affiliations of registered voters.

“The citizens of Kentucky are entitled to representation on these Boards that faithfully reflects their own political choices and makeup,” Stumbo said in the letter.

“The governor shall make the appointments so as to reflect proportional representation of the two leading political parties of the Commonwealth based on the state’s voter registration,” says the law Stumbo cites, Kentucky Revised Statute 164.131.

In Kentucky, 56.9 percent of registered voters are Democrats, 36.6 percent are Republicans, and 6.5 percent are independent or affiliated with another party, according to the Kentucky State Board of Elections.

The UK board has 16 gubernatorial appointees. Of Kentucky voters registered in one of the two major parties, 60.8 percent are Democrats, proportionate to about 10 Democratic appointees on UK’s Board of Trustees.

When independents and those registered with a third party are also counted, 56.9 percent of Kentucky voters are Democrats, proportionate to about 9 Democratic appointees on the board.

Currently, there are seven Democrats and nine Republicans appointed by the governor on the board.

Stumbo said the governor’s office is erroneously counting independents in its calculations instead of only Democrats and Republicans.

“I don’t think there’s any question about the statute,” Stumbo said. “It says ‘shall.’ ”

Stumbo’s Aug. 27 letter said 60 percent of the appointed board members must be Democrats.

On Sept. 5, Fleenor responded to Stumbo’s demand for Republican trustee resignations, saying that “it defies the law, common sense and simple arithmetic to claim, as you do, that there must be exactly 10 Democrats on the board at all times.”

The response said Stumbo’s calculations are inaccurate.

“Your mathematical computations are wrong,” Fleenor said in the Sept. 5 response. “Even according to your hypertechnical reading of the statutes, 56 percent of 16 is at most nine, not 10.”

The appointees on the boards of trustees at universities across the state are unbalanced, Stumbo said yesterday.

“The problem is fairly severe,” he said.

Stumbo said the lawsuit will not affect day-to-day business at UK and U of L, and that filing a civil action is the “fairest, quickest way to enforce this law.”

“Greg Stumbo is doing exactly what he said he would do when he swore on the Bible that he would uphold the values of the state,” Stumbo said.