Kentucky Mine Inspector Resigns Amid Ethics Questions

February 19, 2014

A longtime state mine inspector has resigned amid inquiries about whether he sought or accepted money from an eastern Kentucky lawmaker who owns coal mines.

Kentucky Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement inspector Kelly Shortridge submitted a one-sentence resignation letter Jan. 31 saying his last day would be last Friday, according to media reports. The letter did not give a reason.

The U.S. Interior Department’s inspector general and the Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission are conducting separate inquiries into the relationship between Shortridge and Democratic state Rep. Keith Hall of Phelps, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported, citing records it obtained through a state open records request.

Shortridge did not return calls for comment.

Hall told The Courier-Journal that he hasn’t talked to Shortridge and has “no idea” why he resigned. He declined further comment.

Dick Brown, spokesman for the Energy and Environment Cabinet, told The Courier-Journal that cabinet officials didn’t ask for the resignation and that he didn’t know why Shortridge resigned.

Shortridge’s dealings with Hall were examined in a report by the Energy and Environment Cabinet inspector general last year. The report quoted two officials as saying Hall complained that Shortridge was soliciting contributions for a youth basketball team, The Courier-Journal said.

When the inspector general began investigating, Hall declined to be interviewed, and Shortridge denied he had ever demanded money from Hall, The Courier-Journal said. The inspector general concluded no violations of law could be substantiated, and no action was taken against Shortridge.

Interior Department Special Agent Laura Hast issued several requests to the cabinet for records, including all mine permits assigned to Shortridge since 2009, particularly “any permits associated with Keith Hall,” the Herald-Leader said.

The Executive Branch Ethics Commission requested a copy of the inspector general’s report, which the Herald-Leader referenced a day earlier, according to state email. Shortridge informed his supervisors he was summoned to Frankfort “to be interviwed by the Executive Branch Ethics Commission,” the newspaper said.

John Steffen, executive director of the ethics commission, said he could neither confirm nor deny whether his agency is investigating Shortridge and Hall.

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