Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Goodfellas Communications -- Supplier to Kentucky Politics since 2006

In my favorite movie, Goodfellas, there is a scene detailing the method of communication with Paulie (Paul Sorvino), the boss of the family. Paulie hated telephones, so you had to call a guy who would go to Paulie and then get back to you.

Perhaps this is where Governor Fletcher figured out it was best to stop communicating by e-mail. If you keep a buffer between you and the communication, you can always claim you had nothing to do with it. See below:

Fletcher says he's given up e-mail
Doesn't want things 'taken out of context'
By Elisabeth J. Beardsley
The Courier-Journal

While the world plunges headlong into the digital age, Gov. Ernie Fletcher says he's reverted to ye olde pen and paper.

Fletcher said yesterday that four or five months ago he quit using e-mail for work and in his private life.

Instead, he's relying on letters and messages from his staff to communicate with constituents and conduct the state's business.

Fletcher said he abandoned his electronic mailbox out of concern over what people might say in their messages to him.

"You can't control, you know, what's done on those things," Fletcher said. "Things can be taken out of context."

The matter of Fletcher's e-mail account arose yesterday amid questions about whether he intends to comply with a court order to turn over e-mails from his state e-mail account, "Sadie@ky.gov." Sadie was a dog he had owned.

Fletcher's administration had denied an open-records request by The Courier-Journal seeking the e-mails. He said he would give them to the court, which has ordered a case-by-case review of which ones should be released publicly.

For Lyndee Mourn, a 23-year-old Lexington social worker, the inability to e-mail Fletcher directly is troubling. Mourn, a registered Republican, said Fletcher has taken away "the most convenient method" for people to get in touch.

"Personally, if I was worked up enough, I would take the time to sit down and write a letter," Mourn said. "It would deter a lot of people, though, because they would have to put forth an extra effort to do it."

But Adron Whitehead, a retired UPS worker who lives in Brooksville, said he doesn't care.

Whitehead, 81, a registered Republican, said he doesn't know how to use e-mail, anyway -- and that hasn't stopped him from speaking his mind in periodic letters to political entities.

"If I need anything from him, I'll respond to him by letter," Whitehead said of the governor. "I'll spend the 39 cents for that."

Fletcher acknowledged there are drawbacks to reverting to old communication options. "It does impair our ability to use technology to operate efficiently," he said.

A special Frankfort County grand jury has been investigating allegations that the Fletcher administration made personnel decisions on the basis of politics, a violation of state hiring laws. Investigators subpoenaed e-mails from the administration.

Attorney General Greg Stumbo, whose office has led the state hiring investigation, declined to comment yesterday on Fletcher's decision to shutter his e-mail account.

The governor still will be able to receive messages through his constituent services offices, but he no longer has his own e-mail address, Fletcher spokesman Brett Hall said.

Fletcher still uses his BlackBerry personal assistant device, paid for with campaign funds, to maintain instant communication with his staff through digital messages, Hall said.

Hall said e-mail and BlackBerry messages use different technologies, but he could not explain it further except to insist that Fletcher's BlackBerry communications are not e-mails. Hall could not say whether the BlackBerry communications are subject to the public-records law.

Analysts agreed that Fletcher's decision to give up e-mail probably is not a major work impediment.

Joe Gershtenson, director of the Center for Kentucky History and Politics at Eastern Kentucky University, said e-mail didn't exist until recently and its absence didn't stop the business of governing before.

"It does strike me as somewhat bizarre," he said. "On the other hand, I don't think this means, 'Oh gosh, he can't do his job.' "

The governor's leap back to pre-Internet technology is at odds with private business, which is embracing the digital age, said Al Lederer, a professor of management information systems at the University of Kentucky Gatton College of Business and Economics.

But as the state's top politician, Fletcher can dictate his own terms for communication, Lederer said.

"He's the governor. They'll come to him," Lederer said. "They'll communicate with him on the channel he wants."

Reporter Elisabeth Beardsley can be reached at (502) 875-5136.

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