House Speaker Greg Stumbo raised the possibility Saturday of impeaching Gov. Matt Bevin after CNHI News Service reported that a Democratic state lawmaker said he was threatened by Bevin’s chief of staff for refusing to switch political parties.
If true, the governor’s actions “are criminal in nature and in my judgment rise to the level of an impeachable offense,” Stumbo posted on his Twitter account Saturday, shortly after CNHI reported that state Rep. Russ Meyer, D-Nicholasville, said Bevin asked him last December to switch political parties and then his chief of staff Blake Brickman threatened political punishment for refusing.
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he was “appalled” by the allegation. He is a lawyer and a former state attorney general.
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Stumbo spokesman Brian Wilkerson said Stumbo wasn’t immediately available to take questions Monday about his posts on Twitter.
Bevin’s communications director, Jessica Ditto, dismissed the comments as “the beginning of silly season and a desperate attempt to change the subject from the House Democrats’ failed leadership on our public pensions and the out-of-control health care costs.”
CNHI reported that Meyer said he called Brickman a day after Bevin urged him to switch parties — a move by Bevin to help Republicans gain control of the House. Democrats now control the chamber by a 53-47 margin.
Meyer told CNHI that when he told Brickman he wasn’t switching, Brickman “just went completely off the rails,” calling Meyer “an Obama-loving baby killer (who) picked (Democratic House Speaker Greg) Stumbo over Bevin.”
He said Brickman also threatened to pull state-funded projects from Meyer’s district after he declined to switch parties.
Coincidentally or not, the news report said, the Bevin administration subsequently put on hold a road project in Meyer’s 39th House District that was approved by the previous administration.
The Courier-Journal recently reported that the Bevin administration delayed an extension of East Brannon Road in Jessamine County to Tates Creek Road near the Fayette County line, which had been approved by Gov. Steve Beshear shortly before he left office last December.
The Bevin administration said it delayed the $11 million project because the Beshear administration failed to secure a necessary portion of land before the deadline to begin work. Because of the delay, the state was contractually obligated to pay The Allen Co. $625,000 in damages, The Courier-Journal reported.
Meyer wouldn’t comment to CNHI News on the delay, saying the project is too important to the people in his district.
Brickman called the allegations absurd in a written statement Monday.
“Russ Meyer’s uncorroborated allegation is completely untrue and absurd, especially considering his district is also represented by a Republican state senator and Republican county judge-executive,” Brickman said. “The decision to put the road project in question on hold was the correct one and made by Kentucky Transportation Cabinet as laid out in the Courier-Journal article on 9/17/16.”
CNHI previously reported that another Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Kevin Sinnette, D-Ashland, said he was pressured by Bevin to switch parties during a meetingin December in the Governor’s Mansion.
Sinnette said that the day after he told Bevin he would not switch parties, recorded phone calls went out to voters in his district implying that Sinnette supports abortion and asking voters to call him and urge him to switch parties. Sinnette is opposed to abortion.
Bevin later called that story “an absolute lie.”