Saturday, November 6, 2004

Patton's lover: I'm broke

Affair with then-governor ended in accusations, charges, pleadings

The Associated Press

PADUCAH - Tina Conner, the former western Kentucky nursing home operator who revealed in 2002 that she had an affair with then-Gov. Paul Patton, has filed a voluntary federal bankruptcy petition.

Conner lists $1.4 million in debts and about $6,800 in assets in her petition, filed Sept. 20 without a lawyer.

Conner, a 42-year-old nurse, reported that in the past two years she earned $22,000 as a nursing home administrator in Mississippi and much smaller amounts working at a hospital and a steakhouse.

Conner, who listed an address in Guthrie, Ky., had $100 in cash and about $2,500 worth of personal property, clothing and furniture, according to the petition filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Paducah. Also listed among her assets was a $4,000 half-interest in her daughter's car.

Conner said Thursday that the events of the past two years have taken almost all of her resources and forced her into bankruptcy and that she doesn't have a job now.

"But I am a real strong person and have faith eventually that justice will be done," she said. "All this has been devastating for me."

The nursing home Conner operated, Birchtree Healthcare, already has gone through bankruptcy and foreclosure.

Conner faces a bankruptcy trustee's lawsuit seeking to recover $527,166 she is accused of misspending while managing Birchtree, which has been sold and reopened under a new owner. Conner did not list the lawsuit among her debts in her Chapter 7 petition - a procedure to liquidate assets and erase debts.

The petition lists:

• Various debts to her former legal team, including $3,321 to Louisville attorney Fred Radolovich, who initially handled her lawsuit accusing Patton of retaliating against her when their affair ended.

• $113,000 to the Internal Revenue Service.

• $564,000 to the First Community Bank of Clinton.

• $250,000 to a Clinton farm-supply business.

In September 2002, Conner claimed that Patton ordered state inspectors to target her nursing home after she broke off the affair. She said violations forced the nursing home to lose state Medicaid status and, later, to move out patients and close.

Patton acknowledged the affair but denied using his authority to retaliate against Conner's business.

All but one of Conner's claims in her lawsuit against Patton were subsequently dismissed. Conner said in her petition that she does not have a lawyer to represent her on the remaining count, which alleges outrageous conduct.

Investigations into Conner's claims made her a target. Conner acknowledged that she made false statements on documents for her ex-husband's construction company to qualify for preferred minority status on state projects. She was indicted on a charge of mail fraud in July 2003 and later pleaded guilty and received two years' probation. Conner said she is appealing that conviction.

The Executive Branch Ethics Commission accused Patton of four violations, including that he or others at his direction encouraged the Transportation Cabinet to approve minority status for Conner's construction company.

Before hearings on the violations were to open in November 2003, Patton settled two of the four charges - that he promoted a Transportation Cabinet employee at Conner's request and helped Conner's business gain certification as a minority contractor - and accepted a $5,000 fine and a public reprimand.

The other two charges were dismissed.

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