The Executive Branch Ethics Commission says it might investigate allegations made last month by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin regarding state employees being coerced into making political contributions by high-level officials under former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.
In an April 28 letter to Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear — son of the former governor — the commission’s executive director, Kathryn Gabhart, said her staff will study the allegations made by Bevin at a wide-ranging news conference. If her staff decides it has jurisdiction and enough credible evidence exists, it will present the matter to the commission for a possible investigation at its July 18 meeting, Gabhart said.
Andy Beshear wrote to the commission a week earlier asking it to independently review Bevin’s claims and inform the governor that he lacks the authority to investigate internal violations of state ethics law. At his news conference, Bevin announced that Finance and Administration Secretary William Landrum would hire investigators to look into various actions taken during Steve Beshear’s eight-year administration, including possible coercion of state employees for campaign money and improper use of no-bid contracts.
Gabhart demurred on Andy Beshear’s second request, telling him “we are unaware of any authority that the commission possesses to restrain the governor from investigating similar allegations of conduct that may have occurred or may have involved the office of the governor or the executive branch agencies under his authority.”
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The commission is responsible for enforcing the executive branch ethics code.
In 2014, the commission levied a $5,000 fine against Charles Geveden Sr., a former Democratic state representative who was Steve Beshear’s deputy secretary of justice and public safety. According to the settlement agreement in his case, Geveden coerced state justice and public safety employees in 2010 to donate to Beshear’s re-election campaign. Geveden used his position to get employees’ private home and cell phone numbers, then called to remind them of their state jobs and recommend a specific dollar amount they should give the governor — sums ranging from $500 to $1,000.
Geveden said “he was not aware at the time that his actions were in violation” of the ethics code, which prohibits a public servant from using his position to secure an advantage for himself or others, according to the settlement agreement.