FRANKFORT — Kentucky's two major gubernatorial candidates were accused Monday of violating state ethics laws, each by the chairmen of opposing political parties.
Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear was accused by Republican Party chairman Steve Robertson of pressuring state government employees for campaign contributions. Republican challenger David Williams was accused of not reporting gambling winnings on a financial disclosure form as required by state law.
Those accusations were the basis of complaints filed Monday with the Executive Branch Ethics Commission and the Legislative Branch Ethics Commission.
Psychologist Rodney Young, a government employee seeking whistle-blower status, claimed in a letter released publicly Monday that some state workers were threatened with termination unless they contributed to Beshear's re-election campaign. Young, who works for the Department of Juvenile Justice in Louisville, made the accusation in letters to Robertson and Attorney General Jack Conway.
Hours later, Democratic Party chairman Dan Logsdon filed the complaint against Williams, accusing him of not reporting his gambling winnings from 2002. As president of the state Senate, Williams is required to periodically file documents listing personal financial information, but Logsdon said gambling winnings that Williams reported on personal income tax returns weren't included on his financial disclosure form.
The discrepancy turned up when a judge unsealed records in an old divorce file that showed that Williams, the state's leading opponent of expanding gambling in Kentucky, had more than $5,000 in gambling income in 2002.
In the complaint, Logsdon charged that Williams intentionally misled the public by failing to report the gambling income.
"These ethical guidelines are easy to follow and are in place for one important reason: so that Kentuckians can trust their government," Logsdon said. "I urge the Legislative Ethics Commission to take swift action on this complaint."
Williams spokeswoman Lourdes Baez-Schrader declined to comment on the allegation. "President Williams hasn't had an opportunity to review this politically motivated complaint," she said. "He looks forward to answering the inquiry."
In addition to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, Robertson sent his complaint about Beshear's fund-raising to the Registry of Election Finance, asking that agency to also open an investigation.
Beshear spokesman Matt Erwin dismissed Robertson's claim as "gutter politics," saying Young's complaint is based on "unsubstantiated third-party rumors."
Young said a Beshear aide, Charles Geveden, deputy secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, told Young's colleagues last December that they could lose their jobs if they didn't contribute $500 each to the re-election campaign. Geveden didn't return a phone call Monday seeking comment.
Young said he felt it necessary to forward his allegations to Robertson and Conway.
"I will be able to retire in March, so at this point in my career, I simply wish to do what I can to expose and change the pervasive practice of extorting political contributions from state employees who should be under pressure to do one thing: serve the people of Kentucky to the best of their abilities," Young wrote in the letter, dated July 27.
Erwin, Beshear's spokesman said that the letter and complaints were released a day after a poll by The Courier-Journal and WHAS-TV showed Beshear leading Republican challenger Williams by 24 percentage points.
"Nowhere in this complaint does the filer ever claim that he was pressured by anyone to make a donation to a political campaign, nor does he present any evidence that anyone was pressured to make a donation," Erwin said.
"This complaint is based on gossip and should be treated as the desperate and baseless political stunt that it is," he said.
"These are very serious allegations that cannot be taken lightly," he said in a statement. "It is my hope that the appropriate authorities will launch immediate and thorough investigations. We all know the power and influence of the governor's office. When that power is abused, it is the ultimate violation of public trust."
In the complaint to the ethics commission, Robertson called Young's allegation "very disturbing" and said it would be both criminal and unethical if proven. Conway spokeswoman Allison Martin acknowledged Monday that Young's letter had been received by the attorney general and that it is being processed. She declined to comment further.
Young listed more than a dozen colleagues he said had been solicited by Geveden for campaign contributions. One confirmed Young's allegation.
Department of Juvenile Justice spokeswoman Stacy Floden said medical director Patrick Sheridan acknowledged that he sent a $500 check to the Beshear campaign with a note attached that said he was contributing because he had been asked by Geveden to do so. Sheridan said the campaign returned his check.
Two other employees whom Young listed as having been solicited disputed the claim.
"He may have listed me, but it didn't happen," said Bob Hayter, who oversees juvenile justice programs in Cromwell, in Ohio County. "He must have me confused with someone else."
Juvenile Justice Commissioner Ronald Haws said he also wasn't solicited by Geveden.