Politics & Government

Louisville lawyer to oversee Bevin’s political hiring

Matt Bevin spoke at the Galt House in Louisville on election night after being elected governor of Kentucky.
Matt Bevin spoke at the Galt House in Louisville on election night after being elected governor of Kentucky. mcornelison@herald-leader.com

Gov. Matt Bevin is awarding a $65,070 no-bid contract to Louisville lawyer Kristen Webb-Hill to oversee the hiring of hundreds of people for politically appointed non-merit jobs across state government.

Webb-Hill, 41, has long been involved in Republican campaigns and administrations. She led Bevin’s transition team after his election in November. A decade ago, she was chief of staff for Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s Finance and Administration Cabinet.

She also served on the board of a “dark money” group, the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, that spent $8.2 million to help re-elect Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2014 by running advertisements attacking his Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes. The group, officially based at a post office box in suburban Louisville, declined to identify its donors and was not required to by law.

Webb-Hill did not return a call seeking comment. She will be responsible for “identifying and on-boarding qualified candidates” for non-merit jobs in the Bevin administration, according to her contract.

Most state jobs are protected by the merit system and cannot legally be influenced by politics. However, Kentucky governors are entitled to fill hundreds of non-merit positions with whomever they choose. These include leadership posts, such as cabinet secretaries and department commissioners, as well as “special assistants” and “executive advisers” who are scattered at various agencies.

Bevin chose to use an outside lawyer for this assignment, rather than handle it internally, because he doesn’t expect the work to last long, spokeswoman Jessica Ditto said. Webb-Hill’s contract is set to expire June 30.

Using a contractor saves money for the taxpayers because Webb-Hill won’t get state health benefits or state pension contributions, Ditto said.

She said the Bevin administration doesn’t yet know how many non-merit employees it will hire. The administration of Gov. Steve Beshear had between 800 and 1,000 non-merit employees as it departed at the end of last year, she said.