The Executive Branch Ethics Commission says that it and unnamed law enforcement agencies are investigating people who may have helped former Kentucky Personnel Secretary Tim Longmeyer to illegally solicit campaign donations from state employees under his supervision from 2011 to 2015.
The Personnel Cabinet confirmed Friday that it is separately investigating the same allegations, brought forward by state employees in recent months, said cabinet spokeswoman Jodi Whitaker. There is no set date for completion of that internal investigation, Whitaker said.
The case could be another campaign-finance scandal for the administration of former Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat who left office in December.
In 2014, the commission levied a $5,000 fine against Charles Geveden Sr., Beshear’s deputy secretary of justice and public safety. Geveden coerced employees in his cabinet to give money to Beshear’s 2011 re-election campaign, reminding them of their state jobs and recommending sums between $500 and $1,000, according to the settlement agreement in Geveden’s case.
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Longmeyer, a longtime Kentucky Democratic Party insider, reports to federal prison Dec. 7 for a 70-month sentence for orchestrating a bribery scheme with state contractors as Beshear’s personnel secretary.
On Monday, Longmeyer settled 45 counts of ethics violations with the commission, agreeing to a $208,500 civil fine, all but $5,000 of which will be offset by penalties he owes in his criminal case. Most of the violations were related to his bribery scheme. But two counts revealed the allegations that he directed subordinates at the Personnel Cabinet to collect money from colleagues for unspecified gubernatorial and judicial campaigns.
“These requests for contributions were made in the workplace, during working hours, and a portion of the contributions made were collected in the workplace,” the commission said in its initiating order.
Longmeyer did not admit to the campaign-finance violations, as he did the other counts, but he chose not to contest them as part of the overall settlement, said Katie Gabhart, the commission’s executive director.
Brian Butler, Longmeyer’s attorney, said Longmeyer wanted to “resolve all of these issues with the ethics commission,” which is why he agreed to sign the settlement agreement. But Longmeyer denies pressuring anyone at the Personnel Cabinet to give money, Butler said.
“He did not force any subordinates to contribute to a political campaign,” Butler said.
Under the Kentucky Open Records Act, the Herald-Leader this week requested access to the commission’s case file on Longmeyer for more information about the campaign-finance allegations. The commission denied the request, stating that it “continues to work with law enforcement agencies” on an investigation into those allegations. Specifically, the commission is investigating the case “as it relates to other individuals who were involved in carrying out this conduct,” the agency said in its denial letter.
The gubernatorial and judicial campaigns that Longmeyer allegedly directed money toward are not identified in the commission’s public documents.
Campaign-finance records show that Longmeyer financially supported the 2011 re-election campaign of Beshear and the 2015 gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Jack Conway, both of whom have denied knowledge of Longmeyer’s criminal activities.
The same records also show that Longmeyer and several of his top non-merit employees at the Personnel Cabinet gave money to two judicial candidates during the time covered by the commission’s allegations: Irv Maze, for his 2012 election to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, and Eric Haner, for his 2014 election to Jefferson District Court.
Maze, who once employed Longmeyer as Jefferson County attorney, could not be reached for comment Friday. Haner said nobody has ever questioned him about donations to his campaign from Longmeyer or others who worked at the Personnel Cabinet.
“I would have absolutely no knowledge of any of this,” Haner said. “I know the Longmeyer family. We all went to grade school together. As far as these donations go, I have no information other than they were donors who supported my campaign.”