Politics & Government

Bevin asserts control of all ethics board appointments

Gov. Matt Bevin
Gov. Matt Bevin

Gov. Matt Bevin has signed an executive order that effectively gives him control over all appointments to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission without any input from the state attorney general or the state auditor.

The order, signed Friday but filed Tuesday with the secretary of state’s office, nullified part of a 2008 order signed by then-Gov. Steve Beshear that required the attorney general and auditor to nominate candidates to the governor to appoint to the commission.

Under Beshear’s order, the governor would make the first appointment to the commission from his or her list. The governor’s second appointment would come from three nominees of the attorney general and the third from three nominees from the auditor. The process then would start back at the beginning.

“This executive order returns the process for appointment of vacancies on the Executive Branch Ethics Commission back to the original legislative intent,” Bevin press secretary Amanda Stamper said. “Former Gov. Beshear’s executive order effectively changed the statute without legislative approval.”

Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat, said Tuesday that he has not had time to review the Republican governor’s order, “but this overall approach to reorganizing for whatever reason at any time certainly is concerning.”

He said the previous order, filed by his father, “certainly sought to seek balance by making the appointments, at least the names, come from different folks within state government.”

Beshear said he was not concerned about his personal ability to make nominations but was concerned “about making sure that we have a fair and correct Executive Branch Ethics Commission that will opt to do the right thing and not serve any specific individual.”

He said he would research the legality of Bevin’s decision. Beshear already is tangling with Bevin in court about his authority to revamp state boards and commissions.

Auditor Mike Harmon, a Republican, said in a statement, “It is the prerogative of Gov. Bevin to rescind any prior order as he deems necessary.”

“In this case, this order returns the appointment of membership to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission to the statute as originally set forth by the General Assembly,” Harmon said.

The Executive Branch Ethics Commission, created by statute in July 1992, is a five-member panel that administers and enforces ethical standards that govern the conduct of all executive branch employees. It is an independent agency.

The board has no vacancies, but there will be two on July 15. Terms will expire for former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Martin Johnstone and attorney Rick Masters. Both are from Louisville.

Under the previous executive order, the first appointment would have been by Bevin with no input. The second appointment would have filled by the governor selecting one of three nominees from Beshear.

Jack Brammer: 502-227-1198, @BGPolitics