Politics & Government

Lt. Gov. Hampton sues Gov. Bevin over dismissal of two staffers

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin introduces his new running mate

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.
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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.

Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton sued Gov. Matt Bevin Thursday, claiming his administration did not have the authority to dismiss two of her three staffers.

In a 12-page suit filed in Franklin Circuit Court against Bevin and the Personnel Cabinet, Hampton asked the court to declare that she — as a constitutionally elected officer of the state — is empowered by the law to appoint staff to her office and to block the governor from interfering with her appointment power.

Bevin spokeswoman Elizabeth Kuhn said without elaboration in an email, “The matter is currently before the Personnel Board, and it is inappropriate for a lawsuit to be filed before the board issues its decision. We will move for immediate dismissal of the complaint.”

Hampton’s attorney, Josh Harp, of Frankfort, said a hearing will be held before Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd at 10 a.m. Monday. Bevin has criticized Shepherd on other legal cases, calling him “a terrible judge” and “an incompetent hack.”

The Bevin 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, has said he had authorized Southworth’s dismissal for “remarkably poor judgment in a number of ways.”

The Herald-Leader reported last Friday that Hampton publicly disputed Bevin, saying she has never talked with him about his administration’s dismissal of two of her three top staffers without her consent.

Hampton specifically challenged Bevin’s comments in a June 26 Lexington Herald-Leader story in which he tried to play down an embarrassing feud between himself and Hampton after he named state Sen. Ralph Alvarado of Winchester as his lieutenant governor running mate in his bid for reelection.

Bevin told reporters in June that he has a “great relationship” with Hampton, that he had no intention to ask her to resign and that he had talked to her within the last week. He said neither one of them has said “one bad word” about each other.

“Did the governor really say that? Do you stand by your story?” Hampton asked a Herald-Leader reporter during a brief interview.

“I take issue with that,” she said. “Look, I did not talk to him. I’ve never talked with him about the dismissals. My staff has not been treated right and I stand by my staff.”

Hampton said in May 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.

Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat who is running against Bevin in the Nov. 5 general election for governor, released an opinion that said Hampton has the authority to hire and fire her own staff.

He said Thursday, “Matt Bevin is already the most unpopular governor in the country. Now, he has the additional distinction of being the only one to be sued by his own hand-picked lieutenant governor.”

State historian James C. Klotter said he could not recall of any lieutenant governor in recent memory suing a governor but he noted that the state’s two highest elective offices have had their differences.

He particularly mentioned 1967 to 1971 when Democrat Wendell Ford was the lieutenant governor and Republican Louie Nunn was governor.

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