Politics & Government

Bevin didn’t get a sweetheart deal on Anchorage mansion, board rules

What’s the deal with Gov. Bevin’s new mansion?

On July 17, the Executive Branch Ethics Commission will consider complaints alleging that Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin broke ethics laws when he bought a house from a friend at a price that appeared to be below market value.
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On July 17, the Executive Branch Ethics Commission will consider complaints alleging that Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin broke ethics laws when he bought a house from a friend at a price that appeared to be below market value.

Gov. Matt Bevin did not get a sweetheart deal on a mansion he bought this spring from friend and political donor Neil Ramsey, according to the Jefferson County Board of Assessment Appeals.

The board said the house and the 10 acres it sits on in the Louisville suburb of Anchorage is worth $1.39 million, about $200,000 less than what the governor paid for it in March. The ruling, made Wednesday, was released by Bevin’s office Friday.

Bevin has been scrutinized over his purchase of the home after The Courier-Journal of Louisville reported in March that he bought it for much less than it was valued by the Jefferson County Property Valuation Administration.

The Jefferson County PVA had assessed the house at $2.1 million and the surrounding 19 acres of land at $875,000. The appeals board lowered the assessment on the house to $1.015 million and raised the value of the land to $1.135 million. The 10 acres Bevin bought is worth $375,000, the board concluded.

“After weighing and hearing all the evidence and managing all the distractions, we believe they reached the correct answer and we’re pleased with the findings of the board,” said Mark Sommer, an attorney representing Bevin.

Earlier this month, the Executive Branch Ethics Commission dismissed two complaints alleging that Bevin violated ethics laws as he bought the home. The ethics commission also ruled that Attorney General Andy Beshear would violate state ethics rules if he investigates details surrounding the purchase without first ruling himself out as a candidate for governor in 2019.

On Friday, Beshear said he provided information about the deal to the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this week. He said most of that information was already publicly available.

Beshear also said the latest ruling on the value of Bevin’s house does not assuage many of his concerns about the purchase.

“All we’re asking is that all of the facts about the transaction are laid in front of Kentuckians so they can make a decision,” Beshear said. “There may not be issues, but I’ve got to say the governor is trying awfully hard to hide all the facts around this transaction if there’s nothing wrong with it.”

In particular, Beshear said he was still concerned about allegations that the governor moved into the house several months before he purchased it from Ramsey, who is part owner of a company that holds a state contract; that the state spent almost $30,000 making security improvements to the home when it was still owned by Ramsey; and that the governor personally negotiated the purchase, regardless of the price, with a state contractor.

In their decision, the appeals board agreed with Bevin’s appraiser, John May, that improvements previously made to the house by Ramsey were not worth as much as Jefferson County PVA Tony Lindauer had thought.

In particular, May that argued there were moisture problems in the basement that affected the house’s structural integrity.

Lindauer could not immediately be reached for comment.

Much of the PVA’s assessment was based on a 2013 deed transfer, when Ramsey transferred ownership of the property to a limited liability company that he owns for $3 million.

May contended that the assessment shouldn’t be based on that deed transfer, because it was not a “fair market deal,” meaning it wasn’t between a willing buyer and a willing seller.

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