We’ve been combing over every amazing detail of the depositions in the whistleblower lawsuit filed against Harold Workman and the Kentucky State Fair Board by former Yum! Center GM Ted Nicholson, who claims he was fired in retaliation for telling the awful truth to auditors hired by the Arena Authority, which started the dominoes to Workman’s attempted ouster in February.
We’ll have much, much (much!) more on those later, but here’s one detail in Nicholson’s deposition that sheds light on the mystery of what exactly happened once the Fair Board’s executive board went into executive session on Feb. 23. Many expected Workman to get canned — with Gov. Steve Beshear and Jim Host leading the way — but he emerged from the meeting with his job, only to announce his retirement weeks later by the end of the year.
After the meeting, the board chairman, Ron Carmicle, said this when asked by reporters if anyone spoke to Gov. Beshear while in executive session:
Q: Was anyone in contact with governor during executive session?
Carmicle: The governor? No.
Carmicle also repeatedly answered that there was no vote of any kind taken after executive session was called.
But while being interrogated by the Fair Board’s lawyer Kenyon Meyer about Carmicle wanting Workman out, Nicholson revealed (according to him, and assuming he’s telling the truth) the mystery of what exactly happened inside the board room for nearly two hours that day. Nicholson says that Carmicle and Marcheta Sparrow, the secretary of the Tourism cabinet, went into a closet to secretly call Gov. Beshear and tell him that the board had voted (informally, we assume) to fire Workman, and that Workman had told board members he’d be willing to retire at the end of the year. Nicholson knew this because he was… well, he was eavesdropping and heard the entire conversation with Beshear.
Here’s an excerpt from Nicholson’s deposition that would make R. Kelly proud. Enjoy:
Q: (Carmicle) can’t vote by himself (to fire Workman), can he?
A: No. I found that out.
Q: You did find out. How did you find that out?
A: About what?
Q: That he — that (Carmicle) didn’t have the votes to get rid of (Workman)?
A: I heard a conversation.
Q: Okay. Tell me what you heard. Tell me who was involved.
A: It was — it was a conversation that took place between Ron Carmicle and Marcheta Sparrow with the governor of the state.
Q: And where were they?
A: In a closet next to Laura Chandler’s office.
A: With a ceiling tile missing.
Q: And was that — they — they were in a closet?
Q: Who, Ron was in a closet?
A: Um-hum (affirmative).
Q: Okay. And it was at the — what facility, the Yum! Center?
A: No. It was during the break on the 23rd of February.
Q: Okay. where were you?
A: I was sitting in Laura Chandler’s office talking with Drew Moore (presumably he meant Drew Martin, who ran the convention center).
Q: OK. So you’re — you’re actually over at the fairgrounds on the day of the –
A: I was in the meeting. I had to make a presentation.
Q: OK. So you are basically in a floor under Ron and Secretary Sparrow?
A: No, no. So the Fair Board board — have you ever been in there?
A: Okay. So that’s that long table.
A: At the conclusion of the meeting, Marcheta, I believe it was, called for an executive meeting to discuss a personnel matter, I think she talked. So we were all asked to leave. So Drew and I walked out there looking for some place to sit and hang.
A: And then we went into Chandler’s office and she wasn’t there. So we just sat, you know, talked, BS’d for probably a good hour –
Q: Um-hum (affirmative)
A: — or more wondering when we were going to get all called back in. Then all of a sudden, we heard the door open and close and kind of when you hear that door opening and closing, you’re thinking all right, they’re calling us back in. We didn’t hear that. What we heard was a woman’s voice, which was Marcheta’s, with a phone on speaker talking to somebody, you know, wanting to talk to the governor. Ron was there and … they had a conversation discussing the vote.
Q: Um-hum (affirmative)
A: And they told the governor that it was eight to seven in favor of letting Harold go. And the governor said that’s not going to work, I wanted it to be 10 to five, or 11 to four, something more of a majority. And he said — and Ron said, “Well, Harold has already committed to us that he would resign by the end of the year.” I guess that had happened, I think Harold talked about that yesterday, in the middle of the meeting.
So the governor then said, “Well, here’s what you do. You’re going to hire a CFO to report directly to the board and we’ll deal with this, you know, down the road.” And that was it, and they went back in and then, I don’t know, a half hour or 45 minutes later we were all called in, and that’s what we learned.
So there you go…
LEO is still waiting for comment on this recollection of the events that day from Gov. Beshear’s office and Tourism Secretary Sparrow. Carmicle’s office said he is out this week. We’ll update if we get a comment.
As for the reference above on Workman’s testimony from the day earlier on his decision to retire at the end of the year, here is his recollection from that deposition. He says that he was sitting in his office while the board was in executive session, when Carmicle and board member Lanny Greer came into his office separately and asked him when he was retiring, without any mention of a vote. Workman says he picked the end of the year out of the air, and had never discussed that date for retirement with anyone.
Q: So Carmicle, during the closed executive session, on his own volition, made his own choice and left the executive session and went to your office?
A: He did.
Q: What did you all talk about?
A: He had, one of the board members had — came out and spoke to me and gone back in and asked … And Ron came out just to see if I had, was going to retire at the end of the year and I said yes.
Q: So tell me about… so during the executive session a different board member came into your office.
A: He did.
Q: Who was that?
A: Lanny Greer.
Q: Do you remember what happened, what Mr. Greer and you talked about?
A: He talked… he asked me if I had plans to retire anytime soon and I said, you know, I would be willing to retire at the end of the year. Yeah.
Q: That was it?
A: He just, he asked me about my potential retirement date, and I said at this point it would probably be December 31.
Q: Anything else said?
A: Not to my knowledge, no.
Q: Isn’t that kind of an odd conversation?
A: Not necessarily because I don’t know what the discussion is in the other room.
Q: How many other times in your career had, during an executive closed door meeting, a member of the board come out, walked into your office and asked you when you’re going to retire?
A: Well probably not any others in particular that I know of.
Q: Had you told anybody else, prior to Feb. 23, 2012, that Dec. 31, 2012, was your retirement date?
A: Not on the board, no.
A: Probably not. Probably not, I wouldn’t have discussed that.
Q: had you had any discussions with anybody that that may be your retirement date prior to Feb. 23, 2012?
A: I don’t remember.
Q: Did you on Feb. 23 just pick out of the blue Dec. 31, 2012, as your retirement date?
A: No, I mean it’s logical, it’s the end of the year.
Workman says that ended the conversation, and then Carmicle walked in to confirm:
A: He just, he asked that very question, ‘Is this correct?’ And I said yes, it is.
Q: Is that the end of it?
Q: Was there any conversation that if you agreed with anyone, including Ron Carmicle or Lanny Greer, that if you resign at the end of the year then we won’t go through with our vote to terminate you?
A: No, sir.
Q: You had no idea that they had voted to terminate you at any point during that meeting?
A: I don’t know that they had voted at all.
Much, much more to come from the depositions of Workman and Nicholson, including desk bourbon, fishing buddies, the definition of loyalty, Goldman Sachs, and the New York mafia hit out on Workman…
***** UPDATE *****
Tourism spokesperson Gil Lawson just sent us this response from Sparrow’s office, but presumably not from its closet:
“Because this was in an executive session of the Fair Board, we are not going to discuss.”
***** UPDATE #2 *****
Gov. Beshear’s spokesperson Kerri Richardson says that he is still in Europe and doesn’t know if Beshear spoke to anyone during the executive session, though “as Secretary Sparrow serves as his proxy (on the board), it would have been appropriate and expected for them to communicate.”