Former mining official settles lawsuit with Ky.

Associated Press Modified: November 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm •  Published: November 21, 2012
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The settlement sparked renewed criticism from government watchdogs, including mine safety advocate Tony Oppegard, who said the case shows that the coal industry "wields an undue amount of influence" over state government in Kentucky.

"The agreement says there's no admission of liability, so, legally, the state isn't admitting they fired him unlawfully," Oppegard said. "But what I can say is that it's a shame when an employee gets fired by the state for doing his job in a conscientious manner, which I believe is what happened here."

Richard Beliles, head of the government watchdog group Common Cause of Kentucky, said the case appears to have revealed a breakdown in the regulatory process.

"The government in this case was not working as it was supposed to do, but he evidently was working as he was supposed to do," Beliles said.

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Associated Press correspondent Roger Alford in Frankfort contributed to this report.