Gov. must resolve trustee lawsuit as soon as he can

The flap between Attorney General Greg Stumbo and Gov. Ernie Fletcher continues to take up valuable time and taxpayer money in Frankfort, and it’s time for the governor to act.

Stumbo, a Democrat, filed suit against Fletcher, a Republican, in Franklin Circuit Court on Sept. 12, the Kernel reported last week. 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.

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

Fletcher’s office said the governor’s actions were legal.

“It defies the law, common sense and simple arithmetic to claim, as you do, that there must be exactly 10 Democrats on both boards at all times,” said Fletcher’s general counsel, David E. Fleenor, in a Sept. 5 letter to Stumbo.

Fletcher should not have let it come to this point. He could have avoided the suit by following Stumbo’s Aug. 27 request to secure the resignations of three Republican trustees at UK.

He still has time to act — namely, by seeing for those resignations as soon as possible and conceding to Stumbo’s interpretation of the law. The matter is simply not worth a full-on legal battle. If Fletcher wants the law clarified to be more in line with his stance, he should lobby the General Assembly and the public for change instead of bringing the matter to court.

The governor needs to get three Republican trustees to resign, and he needs to do it soon. The sooner the trustees are removed, the sooner the focus in Frankfort can return to matters of critical importance for the state.