Ex-UK star fired from state job

Published 1:52 am Tuesday, November 28, 2017

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A former University of Kentucky basketball player was fired from his job in the state’s Labor Cabinet last month after sending personal emails from his government computer to women who work in the cabinet, commenting in his messages on their appearance and calling one “too hot to trot.”
The Courier Journal obtained the emails under the Kentucky Open Records Act. The newspaper said in one email, Winston Bennett told a cabinet employee she was “Too hot to trot. Especially on those skirt and dress days, lips stick matching. Lord have mercy. LOL!!! Not too old by a long shot.”
He regularly referred to another woman as “Princess.” And he told another, “I just want to say you are a wonderful lady and I enjoy speaking with you. I also want to say you look very nice today. I hope my saying this does not mess up your shape, kind like eating a cup cake. You are very impressionable. Have a wonderful day.”
On Oct. 10, he had an email conversation that lasted more than an hour with one woman where Bennett commented on what she was wearing the day before, said he liked it when she called him “Winnie,” and asked what she did after work “for excitement.”
The woman answered that question this way: “Not a lot. On a serious note. Delete these email, because from time to time they check people’s mail.”
Bennett was given no reason for his firing two days later after 10 weeks as director of the Labor Cabinet’s Division of Apprenticeship. The job paid $73,500 annually.
He didn’t return the newspaper’s phone messages seeking comment and wasn’t at home when a Courier Journal reporter went to ask about the firing.
J. Brooken Smith, chief of staff for Labor Secretary Derrick Ramsey, declined to comment on personnel matters, but when asked later if any female cabinet employees complained about unwanted touching, inappropriate comments or possible sexual harassment by Bennett, Smith replied, “No written complaints were filed with the Labor Cabinet. As soon as we became aware of a potential issue with Mr. Bennett, it was addressed immediately and he was terminated.”
Seven women who work in the cabinet declined to comment and referred questions to Ramsey.
Bennett, 52, was a standout basketball player at Male High School in Louisville and at Kentucky. He played three years in the NBA and in the late 1990s was an assistant coach to Rick Pitino with the Boston Celtics.
Bennett was the men’s basketball coach for Kentucky State University from 2000-03 and for Mid-Continent University from 2007-13. Mid-Continent shut down in 2014, and Bennett worked as an associate for a Louisville insurance company until he joined the Labor Cabinet in August.

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