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Ky. Gov. Fletcher Allowed Legal Fund

August 25, 2006

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) _ Gov. Ernie Fletcher, mired in a yearlong hiring probe, may create a fund to accept donations to help pay his legal fees from criminal charges that were dismissed, an ethics panel said Friday.

However, Fletcher may not accept money from donors who have business dealings with agencies that the governor has direct involvement with, the Executive Branch Ethics Commission said in an advisory opinion.

Fletcher must also report all donations to the commission and refuse gifts if there are possible conflicts, the opinion said.

The opinion came a day after Special Judge David E. Melcher approved a negotiated settlement in a misdemeanor case in which Fletcher was charged with violating state hiring laws.

For the past year, a special grand jury has been investigating state hiring decisions by the Fletcher administration. Fletcher was indicted in May on charges of criminal conspiracy, official misconduct and political discrimination.

The governor has not said how much he has collected in legal fees.

Fletcher said in July that he was exploring the fund idea, and his general counsel asked the ethics commission for an advisory opinion weeks ago.

The grand jury began its investigation in June 2005, after a Transportation Cabinet personnel officer turned over hundreds of internal administration e-mails and memos relating to hiring decisions.

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