LEGISLATIVE ETHICS COMMISSION DIRECTOR TONY WILHOITE TAKES EXCEPTION TO LAWREADER ARTICLE – Defends LEC

By LawReader Senior Editor Stan Billingsley

In a phone conversation  with Tony Wilhoite, Executive Director of the Legislative Ethics Commission, we  discussed several recent LawReader articles regarding the LEC.  In the articles we compared the cost of disposing of complaints by the Judicial Conduct Commission versus the costs of the Legislative Ethics Commission.   Wilhoite complained that our articles incorrectly stated some of the facts.

In the LawReader article we quoted John Cheeves of the Lexington Herald-Leader who wrote that in 2009 the annual budget of the LRC was $500,000.  Cheeves reported that over the preceding decade the LRC had handled 21 complaints, found one violation and dismissed 20 complaints.  This case load number as reported by the Herald-Leader therefore averages just over two cases a year.   (The Administrative Office of the Courts reports a budget for the Judicial Conduct Commission of under $200,000 a year.)

Wilhoite pointed out that the Legislative Ethics Commission has a far broader role than just to monitor complaints against legislators.  He said the LEC also monitors the conduct of some 1,300 lobbyists.  He says that the actual case load number reported by the Herald- Leader is therefore grossly under reported.

Wilhoite  pointed out that the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission  provides ethics training for legislators and lobbyists, and is extremely busy.  He argues that the fact that there have been no FBI investigations of the legislature in recent years is a testimony to the effectiveness of the work of the LEC.

Wilhoite said that the Kentucky Legislative Ethics laws are recognized as one of the best ethics programs in the United States. 

We invited Director Wilhoite and any members of the LEC to express their opinions to us.  We will publish anything they submit to us on this or any topic.

This author  is concerned that a member of the LEC Commission filed an ethics complaint with the Kentucky Bar Association against a lawyer who wrote a letter to the LEC criticizing one of their rulings.

We do not question the right of the LEC member to file an ethics complaint against an attorney.

 Anyone is entitled to file anything they want.  But we are concerned that the officials of the KBA didn’t see this as a First Amendment issue and instead  began a two year investigation of the attorney, John M. Berry Jr..  

Berry and the ACLU have a Federal lawsuit pending in U.S. District Court over the claim that the actions of the KBA in issuing a Warning Letter to Berry over his letter, written as a citizen, is an infringement of his first amendment rights.

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