AG Beshear hypocritical, misleading on kinship-care lawsuit

Blake Brickman
Blake Brickman

In a May 2 op-ed, Attorney General Andy Beshear, “Bevin must end lawsuit, allow aid to those rearing grandchildren,” demonstrated both breathtaking hypocrisy and a fundamental lack of comprehension of Kentucky law.

Beshear suggests that the Bevin administration should stop defending the commonwealth in court against a judgment that, unless overturned, will cost Kentucky tens of millions of dollars not appropriated in the current budget.

The lawsuit concerns the state’s termination of kinship care, which was a program that paid relatives to look after children who would otherwise go into the state foster care system. The attorney general misleads readers by ignoring the fact that the lawsuit was filed well before Gov. Matt Bevin took office.

Even worse, he fails to mention that the lawsuit arose out of decisions made by former Governor Steve Beshear — his father.

In April 2013, due to a projected budget shortfall of approximately $86 million, Gov. Beshear directed the Department for Community Based Services to implement a moratorium on new kinship care approvals. This action was accomplished through the enactment of a regulation that carries the weight of law.

In 2015, a plaintiff who would have potentially received benefits under the old program sued Gov. Beshear’s administration. The administration defended the case and won in the federal district court. Subsequently, the federal court of appeals reversed the district court.

In response, Bevin is doing what he is constitutionally obligated to do: defending Kentucky law by asking the Supreme Court to reverse the court of appeals.

Finding a loving home for every child in the state’s foster-care system is a top goal of the Bevin administration. Bevin passionately supports extended family members who step up to provide primary care for those children who need it.

That’s why, in 2016, he sought funding that would allow the kinship care program to be reinstated. Unfortunately, after a thorough and thoughtful review, and in a very challenging budget year, that funding did not materialize.

In that same year, Bevin requested budget cuts throughout state government that would have freed up dollars for important programs like kinship care. Those cuts included a voluntary 4.5 percent budget reduction from all constitutional officers. Unsurprisingly, the attorney general was the only statewide-elected official that refused to participate.

The AG even goes so far as to criticize the Bevin administration for the law firm “hired” to defend Kentucky against the lawsuit, failing to mention the firm is representing Kentucky at no cost to the taxpayer.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that his office has more than 80 taxpayer-funded attorneys, Beshear testified recently that he needed the authority to pay fees in excess of $20 million for outside law firms.

For Beshear to lambast the Bevin administration for a moratorium his father’s administration implemented and defended in court is the height of hypocrisy.

The attorney general, of all people, should have an understanding of Bevin’s obligation to uphold Kentucky law. Former Gov. Beshear’s moratorium is current law. One would like to think that the attorney general would be above writing such an inaccurate and misleading op-ed attacking a governor who is actually trying to make our foster-care system better for children and their families.

Apparently, that is not the case.

Blake Brickman is chief of staff for Gov. Matt Bevin.