Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has given a $60,000-a-year political appointment to Jeremy Horton, who was executive director of the Kentucky Democratic Party from 2007 to 2009.
Horton began last month as a "policy adviser" at the Kentucky Office of Occupations and Professions, which provides administrative support to 20 of the state's occupational licensing regulatory boards. He will work as the office's deputy executive director.
Aside from his tenure running the Democratic Party, Horton managed and consulted for several campaigns, including Lexington Mayor Jim Gray's, and he co-founded Change for Kentucky, a Democratic grassroots group.
But Dick Brown, a spokesman for Horton's agency, said politics had nothing to do with the hire. Horton was selected because of "his background in organizational and business-process initiatives for 22 years at the Lexington Public Library," where he earlier worked, Brown said.
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Horton declined to comment Monday.
The Republican Party of Kentucky asked why Beshear continues to hire political appointees despite state budget cuts and employee furloughs. Unlike rank-and-file merit workers, political appointees serve at the governor's pleasure and often are placed in higher-paying management posts.
"Even in these troubled economic times, it is clear that Steve Beshear will always take care of his political supporters," said state GOP chairman Steve Robertson. "He keeps saying he is cutting government waste. But when he adds yet another high-paying political job to his stable, his words ring hollow."
The agency to which Horton was assigned, the Office of Occupations and Professions, was rebuked by state Auditor Crit Luallen in a report issued in April.
The audit criticized the inspection and licensing procedures the office performed for the Board for Proprietary Education. Auditors said the office created a $78,026 "misstatement" in financial reports. It also said the office did not adequately retain paperwork, monitor expenses or fees, or provide board meeting minutes. In one case, a for-profit school operated without a license for two years.