Aides to Ten Kentucky Governors Offer Advice to Gov. Elect Steve Beshear

Nov. 24, 2007- Suggestions for Gov. Elect Steve Beshear from Former Gubernatorial Aides
 

Introduction

 

Fontaine Banks, Aide to Governors Bert Combs and Edward Breathitt 1959-1967 – Brereton Jones 1992-1996

Stan Billingsley -   Admin. Asst. to Gov. Edward Breathitt l966-67

James L. Deckard -  Aide to Gov. Ernie Fletcher  2005-2007

Cattie Lou Miller – Aide to Gov’s. Bert Combs,  Edward Breathitt, Clements, Carroll, Collins, Brown, Wetherby, Ford – 1947 thru 1996

Don Mills – Aide to Gov. Edward T. Breathitt  1963-1967, and Gov. John Y.Brown  1979- 1983

                         The LawReader Grey Beard Project  
                                          INTRODUCTION
LawReader has asked a number of former Gubernatorial Aides to offer their thoughts to Gov.-elect Steve Beshear, on things he might consider in setting up and managing the Office of Governor.   – These comments will be delivered to the Governor Elect.  -
The participates in this LawReader project, have been tested in the service of ten different Governors. (Clements, Wetherby, Combs, Breathitt, Brown, Ford, Collins, Carroll, Jones, and Fletcher.) We hope the new governor takes the time to peruse these comments as we believe there are nuggets of wisdom here that may be of benefit to him or any future governor.Critics of Gov. Ernie Fletcher have opined that one of his first mistakes was in ignoring the institutional experience of persons the press called “grey beards?. There is a lot of grey hair among the former gubernatorial aides who have contributed to this LawReader project.  A lot of that grey hair was earned in the trenches of the Governors Office.
LawReader appreciates the participation of the former gubernatorial aides who have participated in this project. 
We particularly appreciate the comments of Cattie Lou Miller.  We do not believe any Kentuckian has served more governors, and no one has ever served a governor so well.
We have presented the comments in alphabetical order of the authors name. 
FONTAINE BANKS – Frankfort, Ky., Aide to Governors Bert Combs and Edward Breathitt 1959-1967.
I was Chief of Staff to Governor Bert Combs and Edward Breathitt serving  in the Governor’s Office for eight years. The time frame was l959-1967. I also served as Deputy Secretary of Human Resources under Governor Collins and Secretary of Human Resources  under Governor Brereton Jones.The most important challenge to the Governor-elect is the method of choosing the top leaders of his Cabinet.  He must take the time and evaluate the individuals under consideration for appointment.
The key positions in his Cabinet are:

  1. Chief of Staff
  2. Secretary of the Governor’s Cabinet
  3. Secretary of Finance
  4. Director of the Budget.

If the Governor is successful in choosing the right people his administration will be successful.
The second most important factor is the development of the biennial budget. The process will be time consuming, but is an extremely important factor to the success of the administration.
Another important factor is the Governor’s plan to develop a public relations program. Under Governor Combs, we developed a program called “take government to the people?.  Each Cabinet assigned staff to go with the governor to locations in Kentucky where he worked to hold “court? for 1 or 2 days. Anyone could register and talk to the Governor. This gave the Governor a chance to see and talk to the people. This was a very, very successful program.
Cordially, Fontaine Banks, Jr.  Frankfort, Ky.
 

STAN BILLINGSLEY, Carrollton, Ky. -Admin. Asst. to Gov. Edward Breathitt l966-67Pleasae permit me to make the following suggestions:

 

1)      Executive Branch Ethics Commission:
      The Executive Branch Ethics Commission has demonstrated over the last two  years a partisan bent. They have unilaterally enlarged their jurisdiction to include monitoring the conduct of Commonwealth Attorneys and the Attorney General.  All current members were appointed by Gov. Fletcher, and it will be two years before a majority of the commission can be appointed by the new administration.  The Governor should take advantage of provisions of
KRS 11A.015.
This statute allows the governor to issue an executive order that would remove Commonwealth Attorneys and the Attorney General from the jurisdiction of the EBECWe also suggest that the Governor pursue the creation of a Prosecutors Conduct Commission that would do for prosecutors what the Judicial Conduct Commission does for the judiciary.

 

 2)    Criminal Sentencing Reform:  UK College of Law Professor Robert Lawson is one of the great natural resources of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. He has published a comprehensive study of current mandatory sentencing laws, that have taken away from the judiciary the discretion of setting sentences, and effectively given that power to prosecutors.  Prosecutors by use of their power to decide which charges to file, and which to plea bargain, have greatly restricted courts in their sentencing function.  The result has been a dramatic increase in Kentucky’s prison population.       The Corrections budget has increased by $42 million dollars since 2006. For 2008 the budget submitted by Gov. Fletcher for Corrections will rise to $392,686,300.   The continued increase in funding for prisons, is restricting the ability of the state to adequately fund education needs.  Prison construction cannot keep up with the increase in new state prisoners, and the state for the last decade has placed excess prisoners in County Jails, creating a real crisis for counties.   Something is wrong when we ignore relatively inexpensive supervised probation solutions for non-violent offenders and build prisons and mandate longer sentences. The Governor should meet with Professor Lawson and work towards implementing some of his suggestions.  See the Lawson studies at: CORRECTIONS: TOUGH ON CRIME PHILOSPHY by ROBERT G. LAWSON   Discussion of the effect of Tough On Crime sentencing policies on the public- and CORRECTIONS: TURNING JAILS INTO PRISONS-BY ROBERT G. LAWSON – Collateral Damage from Kentucky’s War on Crime

 

3)     Ethics Code for Governors Executive Office Staff:
We suggest that the Governor impose a simple ethics code for all members of his executive office, that mandates respect for the law, particularly the Merit System. The example should be made from the top down that the Merit System laws are not to be ignored by this administration.

 

4)    Adoption of Conflict of Interest protocols for appointment of Special Justices of Supreme Court.
We suggest the Governor publish a protocol which sets out the procedure for the appointment of Special Justices of the Sup. Ct. when cases personally involving the Governor are to be heard by the Ky. Sup. Ct., and two Justices have recused themselves.  That protocol would remove the Gov. from the taint of packing the court that is to hear any case concerning the Governor in a personal matter.

 

5)   Policy for Restoring Civil Rights to Felons:
We suggest the Governor change the policy of the last administration which greatly restricted the restoration of civil rights to felons. 

 

 6)  Control of Pardon Powers:
The Governor should declare a policy that he will not pardon any member of his administration charged with a criminal offense, until they have at least confronted a jury.  

 

7) Adopt Meet the Public Days:Governor Breathitt successfully created a practice where he appeared around the state every several days each month, and invited citizens to call on him. Top aides and Cabinet Representatives often attended and were assigned to review any complaints or issues raised at these meetings.

 

8)      Caution in Appointments to Task Forces:
The outcome of any task force (i.e. criminal justice) can be determined by the interests of the appointed members.  We have seen a criminal justice task force that was captured by police/prosecutor members because their interests were weighted against members of the judiciary, public defenders, and law professors.   More members were appointed from the police/prosecutor interests, and every vote taken was controlled by their group thereby ignoring the proposals of the parties who actually deal with sentencing issues for example.  Remember that the makeup of a task force may determine in advance the work product of the task force.

 

9)            Buy Kentucky
The Beshear campaign pledged to takes steps to see that Kentucky businesses would be favored over out of state vendors if they offered similar quality service and products.  One thing that could be done to make that program a reality is to create an office that provides education and information on how to correctly negotiate the extremely complex bid process in place in Kentucky.  The current vendor interface is so difficult that small vendors simply can’t afford to participate.  Each Cabinet Secretary and the heads of all Boards and Commissions should be required to make an public annual report to the Governor on their efforts to assist Kentucky vendors in participating with state government.

 

Stan Billingsley is the Senior Editor and Chairman of the Board of LawReader, Inc. He has served in the Ky. Legislature (1974-75), and retired from the judiciary after 23 years as a District Judge and Senior Status Circuit Judge. He is the author of several law books. In l995 he was selected by the KBA as the Outstanding Judge in Kentucky.

 

 

JAMES L. DECKARD, Frankfort, -  Aide to Gov. Ernie Fletcher  2005-2007 I’ve been lucky enough to call Frankfort home for quite some time now.   As you and the First Lady know from your previous time here, it’s an easy place to make lifelong friends, and more than a few enemies.   It’s also a remarkable mix of small town life, government, and ready access to our commonwealth’s urban centers.  It does seem, at times, to be populated with an inordinate number of people who see in every mirror a future Governor staring back at them.             And while many in your new administration have been close to the big chair, there is nothing like the view from that singular seat.  The ready access to facts and data is astounding.  The ability to call upon any number of groups or individuals, whether inside or outside government, is without limit.  But so, it seems, are the number of individuals willing to invoke your name for their own designs.             Within the next few days, the Capitol building will be occupied with some new, and not a few old, faces whose primary focus will be on bringing their best efforts to make our shared Kentucky a better place.  Many, however, will be looking over your shoulder to measure the drapes for the next governor’s race. But, that is nothing new.  You have a strong reputation as an able attorney, and you are to be commended for some adroit early steps in surrounding yourself with capable people of good experience.            No one can predict the moments that will transcend the politics in your coming term as Governor.  For my time there, those extraordinary moments often came when least expected.  Unparalleled is my recollection of a television news crawl during an early Sunday morning cartoon in August of 2006, with news that an outbound flight from Bluegrass Field was no more, and being humbled within minutes by not only the courage and efficiency of our first responders, but the families grieving together as one. 

Earlier that year brought my informal medical education from Doctor Fletcher, then acting as patient, when I learned more than I ever expected to know about gallstones, bile ducts, pancreatitis, E. coli, sepsis, blood clots and Coumadin. 

 

And I am still in awe at witnessing every quiet moment when the family of a fallen Kentucky Guardsman, one of our State Troopers, or even a Supreme Court Justice, is presented a triangular folded flag with an official, yet whispered, condolence.             I encourage you to get out into the far reaches of the Commonwealth as often as possible, no matter what your official staff driven schedule may require.  Sometimes it seems that the weight of the dome of the Capitol itself is squarely on the shoulders of Kentucky’s First Family. 

 

But it is in places like Marion, Tompkinsville, Maysville, Whitesburg and Hyden where true perspective can be gained, and a better appreciation for what being “Governor? means.  Kentuckians want to see their Governor, in their towns and villages.  And, all of those that surround and travel with a Governor should know, if they don’t already, that it’s not about them.             Able hands around the Capitol will assist with your message, and with pressing it through the filter of the Frankfort media.  It seems any fair perspective on accomplishment and legacy must come in hindsight.  And with a little help from the messengers.             I’ve found it possible to have many friends in the press corps, but to feel their blade on occasion as well.  As Governor Fletcher said during his remarks on election night, “High office brings distinction, but also trouble?.  Best of luck, Governor. 

 

Jim Deckard serves as Executive Director of the Kentucky Bar Association.  He was General Counsel to Governor Fletcher from June 20, 2005 to February 28, 2007.  Previously, he served as Chief of Staff and Counsel to the Chief Justice of Kentucky, and was in private law practice in Nashville, Tennessee.  Jim lives in Frankfort with his wife, Mandy, and their two sons, Levy (5) and Henry (2). 

 

 CATTIE LOU MILLER, Horse Cave, Ky. – Aide to Gov’s Earle Clements, Lawrence Wetherby, Bert Combs, Edward Breathitt, John Y. Brown, Wendell Ford, Julian Carroll, and Martha Layne Collins. To Gov. Elect Steve Beshear:   Congratulations and best wishes!If you asked for suggestions, I’d say:

 

Early and often, tell your appointees they work for the public and must always meet the highest standards of honesty. Governor Edward T. Breathitt took time in his first cabinet meeting to tell us he expected everyone to live up to strong ethical standards. He said, “Think through your decisions, because, whatever you do, we don’t want any scandals in this administration.?  He emphasized that theme many times while he was governor, and wonderfully enough, in his entire four years no scandals occurred.

Ban free trips and gifts.

 

Tell newcomers there’s no such thing as a secret in Frankfort. The paperwork that carries out their decisions passes through many hands, is seen by many eyes, and is sniffed by many noses. Sooner or later, the details of every unseemly decisions stares back from the morning paper.

 

Provide copies, and require everyone from cabinet secretaries to division directors to read the State Constitution and the Statute chapters on purchasing, contracting and the Merit System.

 

Sidestep the pitfall of winter’s first big snow. Many administrations rush to bring in new appointees, including highway officials and the county highway foreman. Sometimes however, no one tells the new people (especially in Franklin County) about a snow plan or who’s to send out the snow plows and sand truck s ahead of morning traffic.  After fender benders and gridlock, there’s very little rosy that first snowy Capital city-except, of course, some very red faces in might high places.

 

Lots of luck and best regards,  Cattie Lou Miller

 

Cattie Lou Miller, the first woman to serve in the cabinet of a Kentucky governor, came to state government in l947 as secretary to Gov. Earle C. Clements and continued as secretary to Gov. Lawrence W. Wetherby.
She worked a year as assistant to Gov. Bert Combs, a year as assistant to Wendell H. Ford, and a year as chief administrative assistant to Gov. Edward T. Breathitt.
She was commissioner of the Dept. of Public Information (Combs and Breathitt administration), commissioner of the Dept. of Personnel (Ford administration and early in Gov. Julian Carroll’s administration), commissioner of the Department of Finance Administration in the administrations of Gov. John Y. Brown and Gov. Martha Layne Collins.
Earlier, Ms. Miller left Frankfort the day before Gov. A.B. Chandler arrived (1955) and returned the day after he left (1959).
Later Gov. Julian Carroll appointed her executive director of the State Board of Claims and the then-new Crime Victims Compensation Board.
She retired from full-time state posts in l986 with a still remembered civic-center party given by Gov. Collins.  Ms. Miller remained a member of the Ky. Retirement System Board until she retired from that post in l996 after 24 years as an employee-elected member.
Ms. Miller was a member of six state campaign headquarters staffs: Clements, Wetherby, and Combs for Governor, and Clements campaign, the Clements and Wetherby campaign, and for the Alben W. Barkley for U.S. Senate campaign. 
Ms. Miller lives in her hometown of Horse Cave.

 

 DON MILLS, Lexington, Ky. – Aide to Governor Edward T. Breathitt  1963-1967, and Governor John Y. Brown  1979- 1980  Shortly after I joined state government as press secretary to the late Gov. Edward T. Breathitt in 1963, I learned that you never put anything into a memorandum to another official that you didn’t want to read about it the next morning in the newspapers.
 
    Members of the present administration could have learned from that wisdom when they freely and often sent recorded messages through their BlackBerrys, a type of cell phone, to one another concerning the hiring and firing of state employees, particularly merit employees.  Hopefully, the new members of this administration will heed that advice, quash an inquiry by the new attorney general and avoid breaking the law.
 
    Gov.-elect Steve Beshear, as all governors of the past, faces a quick and upcoming legislature in early January. He will be judged on the program and quality of bills that he pushes and passes, including enabling legislation for his casino plan.  And he must present a budget, which was mostly written by the outgoing administration, rather quickly, to reflect the emphasis of the new governor and to catch any lines or figures that would be misleading as far as he is concerned.
 
    During all this time he and his aides must work on the inaugural celebration, the big dances that follow, the planned Holiday parties and all the other social events that mark every new administration
 
    When Breathitt was inaugurated, his budget had been largely prepared by the friendly Combs administration.  But very little ?new money? was available for his tight budget — the same problem, if not more so that Beshear faces. Breathitt put his “new money? into teacher and education programs. His other legislation lacked meaning and quality because of the shortness between election and the legislature.  So Breathitt got mixed reviews by the press on his first session.
 
    The second legislative session was quite different.  Having made a pledge not to increase taxes, as Beshear has done, Breathitt looked instead at what really was needed for Kentucky — a strong civil rights bill, a tough, new strip-mine bill, legislation covering air and water pollution, traffic safety and a host of other bills that were enacted with very little cost involved to the taxpayers and which won Breathitt nationwide praise
 
    The new governor-elect could get revenue help from the casino gaming bill.  But it must first pass a GOP-dominated  Senate, then be approved by voters in the 2008 General Election. Revenue could begin to trickle into the state coffers through gaming licenses shortly thereafter.  But any real revenue could be two years down the road along with a lot of “ifs.?  Meanwhile, the state, in all likelihood, faces a fiscal crisis.
 
    I also had the opportunity to work as chief administrative assistant to Gov. John Y. Brown.  His administration stood out for the inclusion of women and African-Americans not only in his Cabinet but in administrative positions as well. He made a real effort to include both on the scores of boards he named.
 
    Any governor and his aides must be open to the public and press. You never fib to a reporter or you will be in deep trouble. If something goes wrong in the administration, like an employee stealing funds or equipment missing,  you are better off  calling a press conference to announce the problem, rather than trying to hide it or waiting for a reporter to write about it. These are simple matters but a cover-up can be deadly to any administration.
 
    Gov.-elect Beshear is fortunate in that he is 63-years-old.  He should have no further political ambitions, such as running for the U. S. Senate or even being elected president.  So, he can serve out his full eight years with only one main priority — making the best governor this state has ever had.  He will be judged, accordingly.
 
Don Mills formerly has served as the Editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader, and as a member of the Ky. Public Service Commission.
 
 
 

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