The Executive Branch Ethics Commission punished the former head of Kentucky’s Economic Development Cabinet this week for improperly representing his new employer before the cabinet on a $1.31 million no-bid contract that he helped award.
Erik Dunnigan, a longtime state official, ran the Economic Development Cabinet for a year as acting secretary under governors Steve Beshear and Matt Bevin.
At the cabinet, Dunnigan helped award a no-bid contract to Florida tech firm Coastal Cloud in 2015, according to the ethics commission. When Dunnigan left the cabinet the next year, he joined Coastal Cloud as its Midwest managing director, based in Louisville.
Before he departed, the ethics commission advised Dunnigan that, under Kentucky law, he could not represent his new employer before any state agencies for one year on business in which he had been involved during his last three years on the state payroll.
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But that’s exactly what Dunnigan proceeded to do, said Kathryn Gabhart, the ethics commission’s executive director.
“He became the (cabinet’s) point of contact for his new employer, and that was on a contract that Mr. Dunnigan had a direct hand in awarding while he was at the cabinet,” Gabhart said.
In a settlement agreement finalized Tuesday, Dunnigan didn’t contest the ethics commission’s conclusion that he violated one count of the state ethics code related to post-employment conduct, Gabhart said. He agreed to accept a public reprimand and pay a $3,000 civil fine.
Dunnigan didn’t return a call Friday seeking comment. He joined the Economic Development Cabinet in 2002 under Gov. Paul Patton as a senior project manager and rose to the rank of deputy cabinet secretary under Beshear. He resigned nearly a year into the Bevin administration while serving as acting secretary.
On its website, Coastal Cloud says it helps private and public sector clients with information technology consulting, and particularly with assistance on installing cloud-based platforms.
The Economic Development Cabinet initially gave Coastal Cloud a contract from November 2015 to October 2016 at a price of $937,000, which included more than $151,000 in software licensing fees, according to cabinet spokesman Jack Mazurak. Changes to the contract later added more money and time, bringing its final cost to $1.31 million. The contract ended last October, Mazurak said.