- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2002

FRANKFORT, Ky. Gov. Paul E. Patton tearfully admitted yesterday to having an "inappropriate personal relationship" with a woman who is suing him for sexual harassment.
But the Democrat denied that he used his influence to assist or damage the nursing home she operates, as she has accused him of doing.
"I have now apologized to the people of Kentucky and asked for your forgiveness," the married chairman of the National Governors Association said. "I do believe that now I am on the right path."
"It's not easy for me to discuss private failures in a public forum, but I do so because I want to be honest with the people of Kentucky and try to earn their trust and respect again."
He said he had already apologized to his wife of 25 years, Judi, and members of their family.
Mr. Patton initially denied the accusations of a relationship, made by Tina Conner.
"The denial was another mistake," Mr. Patton said yesterday. His wife, who stood by her husband's side at a news conference Wednesday, did not appear yesterday.
Mrs. Conner charged that she had a two-year affair with Mr. Patton and that the governor turned state inspectors loose on her nursing home in western Kentucky after she ended the relationship.
Mr. Patton denied it. "Under no circumstances have I or anyone under my direct control tried to punish Mrs. Conner," he said. "I hope she will go forward with her life as I am going to try to go forward with mine."
Mr. Patton, 65, is in his second term and cannot seek re-election in 2003. He has been considered a candidate to challenge first-term Republican Sen. Jim Bunning in 2004.
Mrs. Conner said she met Mr. Patton for sex numerous times in 1997 through 1999. She said Mr. Patton continued to call her and that she broke off the relationship in October 2001 and found state regulators at her nursing home in Clinton two months later.
The Courier-Journal of Louisville reported yesterday that hundreds of calls had been made from the governor's office to Mrs. Conner's telephones at her home and businesses.
Mrs. Conner's lawsuit against Mr. Patton, filed Wednesday, said he provided extraordinary state assistance to her and her business because of the sexual relationship.
She said that after she ended the relationship, Mr. Patton made "lewd" calls to her.
The phone records show 440 calls from phones in the governor's offices to Mrs. Conner's numbers but do not indicate who placed the calls.
A spokesman for Mr. Patton noted that Mrs. Conner was also the county contact person for the governor's office and that such people are in regular contact.
Birchtree Healthcare has filed for bankruptcy and is the subject of a foreclosure suit. The Cabinet for Health Services pulled Medicare and Medicaid payments from the nursing home in July.
Mrs. Conner, 40, has said Mr. Patton's retribution has ruined her personally and financially. She is a Patton appointee to the state lottery board.
"Well, of course I feel deeply saddened that so many people have been hurt, and I'm glad that the governor has finally had the courage to admit what I've said all along to be true," Mrs. Conner told WHAS-TV after Mr. Patton's admission.
"But I feel this does not in any way justify the harm that he's caused to me, my family and my business, and especially to the residents and employees and their families at Birchtree."

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