A government ethics watchdog filed a formal complaint Friday against Gov. Matt Bevin, accusing him of violating Kentucky’s ethics code as the governor moved his family to a new house in Jefferson County.
Richard Beliles, the chairman of Common Cause of Kentucky, alleges that Bevin used his public office for personal gain when the Anchorage home was bought at a price well below its assessed value from Neil Ramsey, a political donor and Bevin appointee to the Board of Kentucky Retirement Systems.
Last month, the Courier-Journal of Louisville reported that Bevin’s family had moved into a house bought by Anchorage Place LLC in March. State business documents don’t say who owns Anchorage Place LLC, and the governor had refused to identify the owner until Friday, when he told WDRB-TV in Louisville that he purchased the home using the limited liability company for estate planning and liability purposes.
The house was bought for $1.6 million but is valued at $2.57 million by the Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator, according to Beliles’ complaint.
The PVA has said the house alone is worth $2.1 million. The land was part of a 19-acre parcel the PVA has said is worth $800,000.
Ramsey has said the house was sold for a fair market price.
“I’m hoping that none of this is true,” Beliles said in an interview Friday. “I hope this is all completely innocent. I’m hoping to make him answer. I’d love for him to do that and thoroughly, and if he does, I’ll withdraw my complaint.”
Bevin called the ethics complaint political, saying that Attorney General Andy Beshear promised to donate to Common Cause the tainted campaign contributions he received from Tim Longmeyer, the former deputy attorney general who pleaded guilty to bribery for actions he took as secretary of the Personnel Cabinet under former Gov. Steve Beshear.
Beliles said he was filing the complaint on his own, not on behalf of Common Cause.
“Can’t wait to see it,” Bevin said sarcastically. “No politics there. None at all.”
During a news conference Friday about economic development, Bevin spent 14 minutes addressing the ethics complaint, and most of that time was devoted to criticizing media coverage of the sale.
“Obviously I live there,” Bevin said. “That’s why the state security is there, that’s why I drive in and out of there each night. It’s why my children play there, live there and sleep there.”
Bevin also said the property was overvalued.
“It is arguably not even worth what was paid for it, let alone what it’s being assessed at,” he said.
State government began adding security improvements to the house months before it was sold, causing Beliles to question whether the governor and his family lived in the house without paying rent for a period of time.
Ramsey also invested $300,000 in Neuronetrix Solutions in late January through the state’s Angel Investment program, receiving a tax break of $120,000, and is a board member of eBridge, a Louisville company that was awarded a contract under former Gov. Beshear to help state government procure supplies. Ramsey owns at least 5 percent of the company or a $10,000 share, according to a financial disclosure statement he filed with the state.
Bevin downplayed Ramsey’s investment into Neuronetrix, saying there were 50 to 100 people who are invested in the company. Bevin, a member of the company’s board, said he invested in Neuronetrix a decade ago and is a minority owner.
The Executive Branch Ethics Commission is expected to consider Beliles’ complaint during its July 17 meeting. The commission also will issue an advisory opinion to Attorney General Andy Beshear, who has asked whether he can investigate the Bevin administration without creating a conflict of interest.