Newly hired director of park resorts settled ethics violation last year after agreeing to buy eatery at marina leased from state

01/15/2016 05:00 PM

When newly appointed director of resorts for Kentucky Department of Parks assumes his new role in state government on Wednesday, it will be a year to the day that he agreed to settle a state ethics violation stemming from his resignation as manager of Kenlake State Resort Park.

John Rittenhouse, whose appointment was announced on Thursday, was publicly reprimanded by the Executive Branch Ethics Commission and paid a $1,500 penalty for agreeing to buy a restaurant on a marina subleased from the parks department within months of his departure from the agency.

The state’s ethics law requires a six-month waiting period before ex-state workers can do business with their former employers.

Rittenhouse, of Cadiz, resigned his position as park manager in April 2013 and took a job as manager of Jolly’s Dairy Bar and Grill, and by July 2013, he had agreed to buy the eatery on a three-year term, according to the ethics commission’s settlement agreement with Rittenhouse. He had paid the restaurant’s owner $15,000 towards the purchase.

However, Jolly’s Dairy Bar and Grill is on a marina subleased from the Department of Parks by BMAR & Associates on a 15-year agreement beginning Aug. 1, 2005, according to the settlement.

“As such, Rittenhouse, by serving as manager and part owner of Jolly’s Dairy Bar and Grill, is benefiting and enjoying, in whole or in part, a contract, agreement, and lease entered into, awarded, or granted by the Department, for which he was employed, within six months of his termination of employment with the Department,” the commission wrote in the settlement.

The panel notified Rittenhouse of a preliminary investigation in an Aug. 1, 2013, letter and a April 24, 2014, follow-up letter, an initiating order states. It formally accused Rittenhouse of violating the state’s ethics code May 19, 2014, and resolved the matter on Jan. 30.

The commission provided a copy of the settlement to his appointing authority upon its execution, according to the document, which can be viewed here: John Rittenhouse ethics settlement.pdf

Jessica Ditto, spokeswoman for Gov. Matt Bevin, did not respond to questions emailed Friday on Rittenhouse’s appointment. Gil Lawson, spokesman for the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, referred comment to Bevin’s office.

Parks Commissioner Donnie Holland praised Rittenhouse in the Thursday release.

“John has previous experience with Kentucky State Park resorts and will be a welcomed addition to our staff,” Holland said in a statement. “His background in state parks and local government will be invaluable for our department.”

Rittenhouse had worked as park manager from 2004 to 2013, also serving in that capacity at Lake Barkley State Resort Park, according to a news release announcing his appointment. He works at WHVO radio in Hopkinsville and had been city administrator for Cadiz and general manager of the Florence water and sewer commission, the release states.


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