(FRANKFORT, Ky.) -- Former Transportation Cabinet commissioner Dan Druen tried to influence a witness and shredded or altered documents that had been subpoenaed, a special grand jury charged Wednesday.
The 21 felony counts returned against Druen are the most serious charges levied during the two-month investigation of personnel practices in Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration.
Transportation Cabinet personnel director Tim Hazlette was also indicted on a single misdemeanor charge of conspiracy to violate personnel laws. Hazlette is the ninth person charged in the ongoing investigation.
Druen, who was asked to resign as commissioner of administrative services in the Transportation Cabinet, was previously charged with 13 misdemeanor personnel violations and a felony count of witness tampering.
The new witness tampering charge alleges Druen tried to influence the testimony of his former assistant, Cheryl Casey. Casey made her fourth appearance before the grand jury earlier Wednesday before the indictments were returned.
The 20 different charges of evidence tampering allege Druen "destroyed, mutilated, concealed or altered physical evidence" by "shredding of documentary evidence," which had been subpoenaed by the grand jury. The charges allege Druen destroyed the evidence between May 19 and May 25, which was just as the special grand jury investigation was ramping up.
Prosecutor Scott Crawford-Sutherland said the charges against Druen are all Class D felonies, each punishable by up to five years in prison.
The conspiracy charge against Hazlette is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail.
Druen had previously pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor personnel charges. He is scheduled to be arraigned on the previous felony indictment later this month.
Calls to Druen's lawyer, Rob Eggert, at his Louisville home and office were not returned on Wednesday. Calls to Hazlette's attorney, Jim Lowry of Lexington, were also not returned.
Fletcher's office did not have an immediate reaction to the latest round of charges.
Casey's lawyer, Sam Carl, said Wednesday that Casey does not face any criminal charges herself and is not technically cooperating with the grand jury, only responding to a subpoena.
Druen was forced to resign after his previous felony indictment, though Fletcher said the two issues were not related.
Three other witnesses appeared before the special grand jury Wednesday, but only one could be identified.
Tim LeDonne, chief of staff of the Finance Cabinet, appeared briefly before the investigating panel. LeDonne and his attorney declined comment as did the two other witnesses.
LeDonne's appearance was another indication the investigation of Fletcher administration personnel practices is expanding beyond the Transportation Cabinet.
On Monday, the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection appeared before the grand jury.
Besides Druen, seven current or former members of the Fletcher administration have been charged with misdemeanors stemming from Attorney General Greg Stumbo's personnel investigation.
Stumbo, a Democrat, has been investigating the administration's personnel practices regarding the state Merit System, established in 1960 to protect rank-and-file state employees from political influence.
Fletcher, a Republican, has accused Stumbo of conducting the investigation to further his own political interests. He has also criticized the state's Merit System personnel laws and said he is being targeted for the same kind of hiring practices that other governors have always used.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)