Kentucky Governor Goes Before Grand Jury

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Gov. Ernie Fletcher (search) appeared before a grand jury investigating his administration's hiring practices Tuesday, a day after he granted blanket pardons to members of his administration who have been charged in the probe.

Fletcher was in the grand jury room only three minutes Tuesday before leaving the courthouse. He said Monday night that he would not testify.

The grand jury was impaneled in June and has charged nine current and former members of Fletcher's administration with misdemeanor violations of the state's personnel law for allegedly basing hirings on political considerations rather than merit.

Some of those charged are senior members of the administration, including deputy chief of staff Richard Murgatroyd (search) and acting Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert (search). Fletcher said the senior managers provided "inadequate oversight" of younger people.

Also among the nine is a former Fletcher administration member who has been indicted on 22 felony counts of evidence or witness tampering.

In a speech Monday, Fletcher, a Republican, said he wanted his appearance before the grand jury to close the door on the investigation of his administration's personnel practices.

"I cannot allow state government to continue to be consumed by this game of political 'gotcha,'" Fletcher said.

But Attorney General Greg Stumbo, a Democrat, said the probe may expand to include possible federal crimes and a court challenge to the governor's authority to pardon.

Fletcher compared most of the charges to minor violations of fishing laws, and said he has "never knowingly violated any laws" while governor.

Prosecutor Scott Crawford-Sutherland said Monday night that it was up to grand jurors to determine how to proceed, but he would not rule out charges against Fletcher in the future.