Politics & Government

Ethics complaint against state Sen. Damon Thayer dismissed

State Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown
State Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown Kentucky Legislative Research Commission

The Legislative Ethics Committee dismissed a complaint Tuesday against state Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, that alleged Thayer had received inappropriate perks from the Kentucky Horse Park.

The complaint was filed after a Herald-Leader story in March alleged that Thayer asked for and received extra access to the Kentucky Horse Park Foundation’s Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event hospitality tent.

“I’m grateful that the ethics commission has unanimously dismissed this frivolous, politically motivated and baseless claim against me,” the Senate majority floor leader said Thursday in a statement.

The commission voted 6-0 to dismiss the complaint, which was confidential until the vote on Tuesday. The complaint was filed in April by David Davila of Georgetown, who said Thursday that he was disappointed.

“I believed he had undue influence, was trying to get tickets and I think put pressure on the individual,” said Davila, a former Scott County Democratic Party chairman. “I feel like a legislator should be accountable like any other individual to obtain tickets. It was not politically motivated. ... I just thought it was inappropriate. I would file it for a Democrat.”

Access to the hospitality tent at the prestigious annual Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event is normally a pricey perk offered to those who donate a minimum of $1,500 to $4,999 to the non-profit foundation, which supports the state-run park.

According to the dismissal, Davila offered no evidence other than the Herald-Leader article to support his complaint that Thayer improperly received items of value. Thayer responded to the complaint by denying the allegation, pointing out that the Horse Park Foundation does not employ a legislative agent, and that the foundation had invited him to the event.

The complaint was investigated by the commission, which found it did not support further action; the definition of “anything of value” in the ethics code excludes food, beverage, entertainment and other similar items provided by someone other than a legislative agent or employer of the legislative agent, according to the dismissal.

On Thursday, Thayer did not respond to a request for comment on whether legislators should accept such perks for guests.

Davila also alleged Thayer had a conflict of interest based on the Herald-Leader article, in which former Kentucky Horse Park Commission chairwoman Alston Kerr said she had rebuffed an inquiry from Thayer about a paid position running Equestrian Events Inc., which puts on the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. The commission dismissal said that because EEI is a separate Horse Park-based corporation the allegation “does not give rise to a conclusion that he has a personal interest in or would have personally benefited from” legislation Thayer sponsored in the last legislative session to reorganize the Horse Park commission.

That bill stalled in the House but Gov. Matt Bevin later reorganized the commission, replacing former first lady Jane Beshear and others through an executive order.

“I’m pleased that Governor Bevin by executive order implemented the changes on the Horse Park commission that my Senate Bill would have created. The new members of the Kentucky Horse Park commission as well as the new team assembled to run the park are off to a great start returning the park to its rightful position as the People’s Park, the park of the many and not the few,” Thayer said in a statement.