Legislative Ethics Commission dismisses complaint against Rep. Comer

10/11/2011 12:08 PM

UPDATED: Kentucky’s Legislative Ethics Commission on Tuesday dismissed a complaint brought against Republican state Rep. James Comer, who is running for state agriculture commissioner.

Franklin Paisley, a Lexington lawyer, made the complaint. Comer is running for agriculture commissioner against Democratic candidate Bob Farmer.

Paisley alleged that Comer, a state representative from Monroe County, had a state legislative aide perform campaign work on state time by posting campaign-related messages on Comer’s Facebook page.

The complaint alleged that Comer’s campaign was paying the legislative aide, Mike Goins, who was posting messages under the name of BlueSky. But BlueSky Communications, is a consulting firm run by Mike Goins’ wife, Beth.

The ethics committee chairman, George Troutman, read the commission’s decision in open session after the closed-door hearing ended.

The decision said the commission found “no evidence presented to the commission that Rep. Comer paid any money to the state employee to do campaign work …”

“The commission is troubled by the method in which the complaint was filed under oath when the complainant relied on unverified statements of facts provided by another individual,” the decision said.

Paisley acknowledged to Pure Politics in an interview last month that he couldn’t prove that Facebook messages posted under BlueSky came from Mike Goins.

Holly Harris VonLeuhrte, Comer’s attorney, said the legislative ethics commission “dismissed the complaint unanimously” during a closed-door executive session in Frankfort.

“It was very contentious. The person who filed it admitted he did zero verification of the facts before he filed it,” VonLeuhrte said. “It became very clear that James Comer has been egregiously wronged.”

VonLeuhrte added that she didn’t believe the Kentucky Democratic Party “had anything to do with this.”

Comer’s campaign has filed a counter complaint asking the commission to refer the case to law enforcement because it is a crime for someone to file a knowingly false complaint with the ethics commission.

“We have asked that the commission take the next step and refer the matter to the appropriate authorities,” VonLeuhrte said.

But the commission’s decision indicated that it might not rise to that level.

“Clearly, this complaint contained information that was not correct however the commission does not have evidence that the complainant had actual knowledge the statements were incorrect when the complaint was filed,” the decision said.

Paisley, reached by phone on the way back from Lexington from the ethics meeting, declined to immediately comment.

Brian Wright, spokesman for the Farmer campaign, served as a witness during the commission hearing Tuesday.

He said “evidence in this case is there.”

Specifically, he said all the references to Mike Goins on Comer’s campaign Facebook were deleted. But it remains unclear whether those posts were made or deleted by Mike Goins during time when he had clocked in as a state legislative aide.

“We expected the commission to further investigate our claims,” Wright said. “But we understand the commission’s reluctance to move forward against a candidate right before the election.”


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