Kentucky Gov. Fletcher Can Take Donations to Help Pay Legal Fees

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.

According to the opinion, Fletcher must report all donations to the commission, and if there are possible conflicts, the governor should not accept the gifts.

The opinion from the ethics panel comes 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.