Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 16, 2012

Just a suggestion

State merit employees can give to political campaigns

The Independent

ASHLAND — Charles Geveden, the former deputy secretary of the state Department of Juvenile Justice, admits he asked employees of the agency to contribute to the successful re-election campaign of Gov. Steve  Beshear in 2010 but no one was pressured to give and there were no consequences for those employees who did not give.

Employees questioned by at least three agencies investigating allegations Geveden acted improperly and may have violated the law by asking them to donate to the governor’s re-election campaign seem to confirm what Geveden is saying.

The FBI, the state attorney general’s office and the Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission  have interviewed current or former employees of the Department of Juvenile Justice about calls made in 2010 by Geveden. None of the workers questioned said they felt threatened, although one said he felt pressured to donate but never did. He continues to work for the department.

Geveden said he was unaware of the investigations. None of those interviewed apparently could point to any employees who may be been promoted, transferred or demoted because of a donation they did or did not make to Beshear’s re-election campaign. Then what’s the problem?

At one point, state merit employees were barred from participating in anyway with the campaigns of those seeking state offices, whether it be making a campaign contribution, placing a sign endorsing a candidate in their front yards, or even having a bumper sticker for a candidate on their car. However, it was state merit employees who complained that their freedom of speech was being unfairly restricted, and state merit employees now are free to actively participate in political campaigns.

As long as there is no evidence that employees were in any way reprimanded because they ignored Geveden’s suggestion that they donate to the Beshear campaign, we have no problem with what he did. It may have been adding a degree of partisan politics to jobs that are supposed to be free of such things, but scores of state employees in Frankfort got their merit jobs not just because of what they knew but who they knew. They more than most of us understand how politics works in the real world.