House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he was surprised and disappointed with the resignation Thursday of state Rep. Jim Wayne as chairman and member of a special panel Stumbo created to investigate Gov. Matt Bevin’s handling of a controversial road project in Jessamine County.
Wayne, D-Louisville, announced his resignation earlier in the day from the House Committee on Executive Actions, saying Stumbo nixed the special panel’s subpoena of state Rep. Russ Meyer, D-Nicholasville.
Meyer has alleged that Bevin, a Republican, put off the $11 million East Brannon Crossing extension in his district because Meyer would not change political parties.
Wayne said it now appears that Stumbo’s decision to grant the committee the power to subpoena witnesses was conditional, “making our efforts to arrive at the truth regarding charges against the governor impossible.”
“In short, we are asked to do a job without all the tools necessary to do it,” Wayne said.
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said later at a news conference in his Capitol Annex office that he would have granted the committee’s request to subpoena state transportation officials or others who were knowledgeable about the state’s handling of the road project but he saw no need to subpoena Meyer.
Wayne said Meyer did not respond to multiple requests to testify under oath before the committee.
Meyer, in a telephone interview, said he spoke to Wayne a few weeks ago and explained to him that he was busy with post-election activities like picking up signs after work, an illness and a vacation with his family.
“I had a time problem but did I refuse to talk to the committee? Absolutely not,” Meyer said. “I would have done so when our schedules could match.”
Stumbo, who will be leaving office at year’s end because of his defeat in November, said he will not appoint a new chairman — a position he considered taking but decided he did not have enough time left as a House member.
Asked about the unsuccessful efforts by Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington, to dissolve the committee, Stumbo said he wants the panel to issue a report and have it presented to Republican leadership at the beginning of the 2017 General Assembly.
“Let them decide if they want to proceed,” Stumbo said.
Bevin, on his official Twitter page, delighted in the committee’s turmoil. He called it a “kangaroo court” and claimed it was “too incompetent” to halt its proceedings.
He said the committee loves the money its members take from taxpayers. It hired a Tennessee attorney for $225 an hour.
Bevin has maintained that the panel did not have the authority to investigate his administration’s handling of the East Brannon Crossing road project and summon witnesses for testimony under oath.
Bevin has said he delayed the project because the administration of former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear didn’t secure a necessary portion of land before the deadline to begin work. The state was contractually obligated to pay The Allen Co. $625,000 in damages because of the delay.