Politics & Government

‘Pray for me as I battle dark forces.’ Lt. Gov. Hampton says another staffer fired.

Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton.
Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton.

Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton, whom Gov. Matt Bevin dropped as his running mate for this year’s race for governor, asked for prayers Friday on her Twitter account after the Bevin administration dismissed her deputy chief of staff on Thursday without her approval.

“CALLING PRAYER WARRIORS: Yesterday, person(s) unknown initiated unauthorized personnel action ending employment of my talented, stellar Deputy Chief Adrienne Southworth, against my wishes. Pray for me as I battle dark forces,” Hampton posted on her official Twitter account.

Hampton, Kentucky’s first black constitutional officer, was not immediately available for comment. Bevin spokeswoman Elizabeth Kuhn said “we don’t comment on personnel matters.”

At least one Tea Party activist said the dismissal could hurt Bevin in his re-election bid.

“Jenean Hampton is a constitutional conservative. Matt is just a damn Republican,” said Barbara Knott of Owensboro, a friend of Hampton and one of the founders of the Owensboro Tea Party.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, announced Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, in the Capitol Rotunda that his new running mate this year will be state Sen. Ralph Alvarado, a Winchester physician.

Earlier this year, the Bevin Administration fired Hampton’s chief of staff, Steve Knipper, against her wishes. The latest dismissal leaves Hampton with only one staffer, Executive Operations Director Ruth LeMaster.

LeMaster opened the closed door of the lieutenant governor’s office in the Capitol Thursday morning for a reporter and said “I’m still here.” She said Hampton was not in the office.

In a dismissal letter to Southworth Thursday obtained by the Lexington Herald-Leader, the state Finance and Administration Cabinet’s administrative services office said “your services as an an Administrative Assistant within the Lieutenant Governor’s Office are no longer needed.”

“This action is being taken without cause, therefore, you do not have the right to appeal this action to the Kentucky Personnel Board,” the letter stated.

It added that she may “file a claim of discrimination within the Kentucky Personnel Board if you believe this action was based on unlawful discrimination” within 30 days.

Knipper has filed an appeal with the Personnel Board that is pending. When he was fired in January, Hampton filed a document with the secretary of state’s office that said she was appointing Knipper “as my chief of staff.” But he has not been on the state payroll since his dismissal by the Bevin Administration.

The administration wanted all candidates for this year’s political offices to resign from state government and Knipper declined. He ran unsuccessfully in this spring’s GOP primary election for secretary of state, and did not return phone calls Friday about Southworth’s dismissal.

Her dismissal letter was signed by Troy Robinson, who was listed as an appointing authority in the Finance Cabinet.

Southworth, of Lawrenceburg, was making $81,000 a year. She has been with the lieutenant governor’s office since December 2015. She worked eight years with Take Back Kentucky, a conservative group that says its mission is “to preserve the God-given rights that are recognized in the Constitutions of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the United States of America.”

Southworth has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management from Louisiana Baptist University.

Knott described Southworth’s firing as “terrible.”

“I’m so upset with Matt Bevin. This will hurt him in November,” Knott said of Bevin’s re-election bid in the Nov. 5 general election against Democratic nominee Andy Beshear, Kentucky’s attorney general.

Knott, a retired teacher, said she did not vote for Bevin in May’s primary election. Asked whom she will vote for in November, she said, “I’m not going to vote for anyone. I just won’t vote. You’re going to find many Republicans feel that way.”

Knott and several other Tea Party leaders tried to persuade Bevin to keep Hampton on his re-election ticket. He, however, chose state Sen. Ralph Alvarado, a Winchester physician.