Whitesburg KY

Mine safety appointment blocked


Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration is blocking the appointment of his predecessor’s top aide to Kentucky’s Mine Safety Review Commission.

Stan Cave, who was former Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s chief of staff, has objected to the claim by Beshear’s general counsel that Cave’s appointment wasn’t properly confirmed by the General Assembly.

The three-member mine safety commission conducts hearings on willful and repeated violations of Kentucky’s mine safety laws.

The job does not have an annual salary, but commission members are paid about $490 a day for their work.

Cave has stepped aside from the commission “under protest” until the issue is resolved, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

The Lexington lawyer said in a statement that he hasn’t decided what action, if any, to take, but said the issue “will ultimately have to be decided by the Kentucky Supreme Court.”

Fletcher, a Republican, appointed Cave to the mine safety commission in the final hours of his administration on Dec. 10 for a term on the commission that would expire May 23, 2010. Fletcher ran for re-election last year but was defeated by Beshear, a Democrat.

The Republican-led Senate approved Cave’s appointment to the mine safety commission at 12:46 a.m. on April 16, according to the vote roll call sheet.

But Ellen Hesen, general counsel for Beshear, contends in an April 18 letter to Cave that the Democratic-controlled House did not act on the appointment, as required by a state statute.

As a result, his seat on the commission has become vacant, she said.

Beshear’s press secretary, Dick Brown, said the governor’s office of general counsel “is confident in its review of the law and believes it would be illegal to seat Mr. Cave on the board without approval of both chambers of the General Assembly.”

Cave said in a statement to the commission at its meeting last Friday that his appointment was confirmed by the Senate in conformity with section 93 of the state Constitution.

It says: “Inferior state officers and members of boards and commissions, not specifically provided for in this Constitution, may be appointed or elected, in such manner as may be prescribed by law, which may include a requirement of consent by the Senate, for a term not exceeding four years, and until their successors are appointed or elected and qualified.”

Cave said the attempt to remove him violates the state Constitution and “is contrary to wellknown precedent of the Kentucky Supreme Court.”

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