Politics & Government

Beshear ‘wrongfully paid’ $4.2M to law firm in Purdue Pharma case, Bevin claims

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, left, and Governor Matt Bevin.
Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, left, and Governor Matt Bevin. File photo.

The Bevin Administration is suing a Louisville law firm, claiming it was “wrongfully paid” $4.2 million by Attorney General Andy Beshear for its work helping the state settle a lawsuit against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma.

Finance Secretary William M. Landrum III filed the 30-page lawsuit Tuesday against the law firm of Dolt, Thompson, Shepherd and Conway in Franklin Circuit Court. He alleged that Beshear should not have facilitated the payment of about $4.2 million to the law firm on Jan. 21, 2016, because its contingency-fee contract to help the state sue Purdue Pharma expired June 30, 2015.

The state’s case against Purdue Pharma was settled in December 2015 for $24 million.

“Under Kentucky law, a service provider ordinarily cannot be paid for work performed for the commonwealth in the absence of a valid, written contract,” Landrum’s suit said.

Beshear responded with his own 109-page lawsuit in Franklin Circuit Court on Tuesday against Landrum, claiming that he followed the advice of Bevin’s finance cabinet when paying the law firm.

Beshear’s lawsuit said his office in early 2016 learned “that, through miscommunication, the original contract with Dolt Thompson had expired and no renewal contract had been executed.”

Beshear said he brought the contract to the attention of Bevin’s finance cabinet and the cabinet directed his office to enter into a second contract with Dolt Thompson to pay the law firm its contingency fee and expenses.

Beshear said he did that and the legislature’s Government Contract Review Committee approved the new contract. Money for it also was included in the state budget, Beshear said.

Landrum’s lawsuit, though, contends Beshear “wrongfully and unlawfully gave Dolt Thompson an after-the-fact contract in a failed attempt to justify giving the firm a $4.2 million cut of the $24 million settlement.”

The firm, the suit said, should repay the $4.2 million to the state.

Landrum declined Wednesday to answer questions about the litigation. He said his suit speaks for itself and the Finance Cabinet does not discuss pending litigation.

“Sadly, the Bevin administration is willing to politicize our drug epidemic at a time when we, on average, lose four Kentuckians daily to fatal overdoses,” Deputy Attorney General J. Michael Brown said in a statement. “This new attack is both silly and petty.

“Having a judge rule in this matter is the quickest and most transparent way to resolve it. The governor’s bullying will not stop this office from pursuing drug dealers, suing irresponsible opioid manufacturers, funding treatment and helping Kentuckians protect their families by cleaning out their medicine cabinets.”

The Democratic attorney general and the Republican governor have been adversaries in various legal issues since both took office.

Tyler Thompson, an attorney with the law firm, said Wednesday the suit has no merit and that his firm had a legitimate contract with the state.

He said the firm was told by the former administration of Gov. Steve Beshear that “everything was approved.”

Thompson also contends Kentucky fared well in its settlement with Purdue Pharma.

“Florida got $1.2 million,” he said.

Kentucky and other states accused Purdue Pharma of misleading the public about the addictiveness of OxyContin, a powerful prescription painkiller.

State officials said the drug led to a wave of addiction and increased medical costs across the state, particularly in Eastern Kentucky, where many injured coal miners were prescribed the drug.

Former Kentucky Attorney General Greg Stumbo, who initially filed the lawsuit in 2007, said the case could be worth as much as $1 billion if taken to a jury trial. Instead, the state settled in December 2015 with Purdue Pharma, which did not admit any wrongdoing.

Democrat Jack Conway’s term as attorney general ended weeks after the settlement and Beshear became the new attorney general in January 2016. Conway joined Dolt, Thompson, Shepherd and Conway as a partner in April 2016.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198, @BGPolitics