Gov. Matt Bevin said on Wednesday he does not want Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton to resign, playing down an embarrassing public feud between the two that sparked after he chose not to keep Hampton on his re-election team this year.
Bevin, a Republican, said he has a “great” relationship with Hampton and that neither he nor her has said “one bad word” about each other.
Reminded Wednesday that Hampton made a public plea last month for prayer as she battled “dark forces” working against her in the Capitol, Bevin responded by saying “that’s a pretty nebulous term that I don’t want to try to define.”
“You would have to ask her what that means,” he said. “Every one of us could give a different answer what that means.”
Bevin’s comments to reporters came after a Lexington news conference in which he announced improved salaries for 628 state probation and parole officers.
Hampton has questioned the Bevin administration’s right to fire two of her top staffers.
The administration fired Hampton’s chief of staff, Steve Knipper, in January for his refusal to follow its policy of leaving state government when he decided to run in May’s Republican primary election for secretary of state. He was unsuccessful in the election.
The Bevin Administration then fired Adrienne Southworth, Hampton’s deputy chief of staff, in May. Southworth said she didn’t know why she was fired but that she had been investigating Knipper’s dismissal.
Knipper and Southworth have appealed their dismissals to the Personnel Board.
Bevin’s chief of staff, Blake Brickman, said this month that he had authorized Southworth’s dismissal for “remarkably poor judgment in a number of ways.”
Hampton said the firings of her top two staffers were unauthorized and then asked for prayer against the “dark forces” at work against her. She did not elaborate.
Bevin said Wednesday that his relationship with Hampton is “good.” He said he last talked to her last week.
He also said Brickman “absolutely” has the right to authorize the dismissal of any politically-appointed employee.
“When people have lost the trust of those for whom they work, the reality is they lose their job,” Bevin said.
Bevin asked if any reporter had heard him or her say “one negative thing” about each other.
“All of this supposed angst that exists between the two of us, have any of you ever witnessed or heard any of that? Have you heard me say one negative thing about her or her one negative thing about me?” he asked. “No. It’s all rumors and things that you all gin up or hypothesize on. I have a great relationship with her.”
He described Hampton as an “outstanding person” and said “she has been an excellent lieutenant governor.”
“She’s a dear friend. She’s somebody with an incredible intellect,” he said. “She’s done things that that have never historically been done in this state on many levels — those perceived and those people aren’t even aware of. She’s been excellent. I’m grateful for the service she has provided. I’m excited for the service she will provide in her remaining months of her time as lieutenant governor.”
When Bevin was asked in January why he chose state Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, over Hampton as his running mate for his re-election campaign, he only said because he chose Alvarado.
Bevin blamed the media for creating the notion that Hampton should resign. The first public mention of a Hampton resignation came June 15 when Scott Jennings, a CNN contributor who has served as an adviser to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, wrote on Twitter that Hampton should resign.
Hampton could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.
Bevin went to the probation and parole office in Lexington Wednesday to announce an increase in the state’s salary schedule for probation and parole merit employees who make below-average wages. Officials said it would be about a 12 percent pay hike for most of the affected employees. They said the money for the higher salaries will come from agency funds.