Ky. Official Claims Pressure from Gov. Over Girlfriend

A second state official said he felt political pressure to give special status to a business co-owned by the woman with whom Gov. Paul Patton has admitted having an affair.

Norris Beckley, former executive director of the state's Office of Minority Affairs, said Sunday he was called to the office of Transportation Secretary James Codell III to meet with the woman, Tina Conner, in the spring of 2000.

Beckley said Codell asked him to work closely with Conner on a document that would certify the construction company she co-owned with her then-husband as a disadvantaged business enterprise under a program aimed at helping women and minorities in business. That status would give the business special consideration on road projects.

Beckley signed the document, and ST Construction received the special status, but it has not received any state contracts.

Beckley said Codell did not order him, only pressured him, to approve Conner's application.

"It wasn't a directive," Beckley said. "But I could get the feel that he wanted me to do whatever I could to make sure that we got her certified.

"Getting called to the secretary's office -- especially with somebody as highly political as Ms. Conner -- puts a certain amount of pressure on you to try to get this done as quickly as possible."

Last week, Ron Derricks, who also worked in the Office of Minority Affairs, said, "There was a little bit more than subtle pressure applied to get her certified."

On Friday, Patton, 65, tearfully admitted he had an affair with Conner, 40, who is now suing him for sexual harassment. Patton denied using his influence to assist or damage Conner's business interests, which also include a nursing home in western Kentucky.

Conner, who has divorced her husband, alleged in her lawsuit that she was given favors from the Patton administration before she ended their relationship in October 2001. She alleged that when the relationship ended, Patton turned vindictive, sending state regulators to her nursing home.

The facility recently lost Medicare and Medicaid funding and has filed for bankruptcy.