LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

Former Deputy Chief gets last minute appointment by outgoing Governor


Kentucky's former juvenile justice commissioner, who resigned last week, was appointed chairman of the Kentucky Parole Board on Friday -- then given a $5,000 a year increase in pay by outgoing Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

On Friday, Fletcher signed an executive order that named Bridget Skaggs Brown head of the state Parole Board, a job that paid $76,824 a year.

And on Monday, Fletcher entered another executive order, raising the chairman's pay to $82,000 a year and the other members to $81,000 a year. It appears to be the only one of dozens of executive orders by Fletcher in his final days in office that raised anyone's pay.

-- Bridget Skaggs Brown gave $2,000 to Ernie Fletcher's re-election campaign, according to finance records.

Brown -- appointed to the remainder of the term of former chairman Theodore Kuster, who retired -- will serve only though June 30, 2008, unless she is reappointed by Gov. Steve Beshear.

Brown, a former deputy police chief in Louisville, did not respond to a request for comment yesterday through the Justice Cabinet, which includes the Parole Board. Campaign finance records show Brown donated $2,000 to Fletcher's re-election campaign, the maximum allowed by law for an individual.

As juvenile justice commissioner, she was paid $99,800 a year, according the state Personnel Cabinet.

The news of Brown's appointment and pay raise startled Rep. Kathy Stein, a Lexington Democrat who as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee oversees justice issues.

"You're kidding," Stein said yesterday. "I think that reeks of politics."

Beshear, who took office Tuesday, declined to comment on the matter until he has a chance to review it, spokeswoman Vicki Glass said.Fletcher has declined to comment on his last-minute executive orders, which included 84 pardons on Monday and a flurry of appointments to state boards and commissions, referring questions to David Fleenor, his former general counsel.

Fleenor said yesterday he helped handled the orders, including Brown's appointment, but didn't know why it was done.

Fletcher also on Friday appointed Charles Massarone of Lexington and reappointed Mark Douglass Gibson of Elizabethtown to four-year terms on the Parole Board.

Some advocates said yesterday they will welcome a change in operations at juvenile justice, which they said has become too focused on punishment and incarceration rather than the treatment and rehabilitation required under Kentucky's juvenile code.

"The next commissioner has bountiful opportunities to improve the system," said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates in Louisville.

Brooks said his agency is concerned that more youths are being held in juvenile centers rather than getting treatment and services they need in their communities. He also is concerned about the disproportionate number of African American youths in the juvenile justice system.

"We consider it a crisis," he said.

Beshear's new justice secretary, Louisville lawyer J. Michael Brown, said yesterday he plans to search for a new commissioner.

He said he needs time to study the department and its needs but knows what he wants in whoever is hired to lead it.

"Obviously I want someone who understands the underlying mission of that particular department, which is to treat adjudicated juveniles,'' he said.

David Richart, a longtime youth advocate and consultant in Louisville, gave juvenile justice mixed reviews under Bridget Brown's leadership.

"I guess you could say there were no major scandals," he said.

But Richart said he thought the department has strayed from its mission of providing treatment and rehabilitation to youths.

"It's time to return to the roots," he said.

The department has been under fire from public defenders who represent juveniles. They have challenged department practices in court as illegal and violating the youths' civil rights.

In a September ruling in a case brought by the state Department of Public Advocacy, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd ordered the department to abandon its practice of requiring virtually all youths who commit sex offenses -- no matter how minor -- to undergo long-term treatment at residential centers.

Shepherd ruled the department had exceeded its authority under state law, which requires less restrictive treatment for youths who commit minor offenses or can't benefit from long-term structured treatment because of disabilities, such as mental retardation.

Public advocates also have filed a broader court challenge to the department's entire system for classifying and housing youths, arguing that too many are being held in juvenile centers hundreds of miles from home when they could receive treatment and supervision in their communities.

That case is pending before Shepherd.

Stein said she hopes the new commissioner will understand the department's obligation, noting that after Shepherd's recent ruling, the department chose to appeal it rather than obey it.

Shepherd recently rejected that appeal and directed the department to begin removing youths from sex offender programs where they don't belong.

"When you continue to ignore a judge's order, I don't think that's a good characteristic for the commissioner to have," she said.