Attorney General Andy Beshear outlines work of office in latest spat with Gov. Bevin
02/10/2017 03:42 PM
FRANKFORT – Attorney General Andy Beshear has released a report requested by Gov. Matt Bevin showing that the AG’s Office of Civil and Environmental Law, which received just over $2 million of general fund dollars for operation, has returned nearly $20 million directly to the commonwealth, secured what could reach $85 million in restitution to Kentuckians, and ensured a $90 million payment from the Tobacco Settlement Fund in 2016.
Bevin sent a hand delivered letter to Beshear on February 2 requesting the overall number of Kentucky Open Records Act appeals and Kentucky Open Meetings Act appeals decided by the Office of the Attorney General, as well as the number of attorneys assigned to handle Kentucky Open Records request appeals as well as Kentucky Open Meetings Act appeals.
On the same day, Bevin sent a second letter to Beshear requesting the number of cases from January 2014 through the present which have been defended by the Office of the Attorney General, the budget for the Office of the Civil and Environmental Law within the Office of the Attorney General for the current fiscal year, the number of attorneys currently assigned to the Civil and Environmental Law Division as well as a list and description of the cases currently being handled by the Civil and Environmental Law Division.
The Office of Civil and Environmental Law is comprised of five branches: (1) Open Records and Open Meetings; (2) Civil Litigation; (3) Uninsured Employers’ Fund; (4) Boards and Agencies, and (5) Administrative Hearings.
In the first year of his administration, the office responded to a record 380 open records or open meetings appeals.
The office’s Uninsured Employers’ Fund attorneys are currently handling 232 active cases for the state involving employers who do not have workers’ compensation insurance.
The office’s Board and Agencies attorneys represent 34 independent organizations, providing independent advice.
The Administrative Hearings Branch is currently presiding over 30 administrative actions before state agencies and boards.
Beshear said that the dollars the office returned to the state addressed some of the commonwealth’s most pressing problems.
The office provided $4.5 million to the Kentucky State Police Crime Lab to prevent a future SAFE kit backlog; $1 million to help address the current backlog; $8 million to 15 drug treatment centers across the state, and & $2 million to fund the commonwealths 30 Rocket Docket programs.
In addition, the office worked on the Volkswagen settlement that may garner $100 million for the state and its citizens as well as working to ensure compliance with the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement which provided $90 million to Kentucky in 2016.
Beshear refused to speculate why Bevin wanted the information, but says that he has taken the opportunity to publicly show the governor and all Kentuckians the benefits of the work done by the Office of Civil and Environmental Law which currently has 24 attorneys.
“I’m proud to share what I think is a lot of work, a lot of hard work with the governor, as well as you,” Beshear said. “I’m also proud of how efficient the group is. The AG’s office has 25 percent less employees than it did in 1999. And as you know, our budget has been cut significantly since 2008.”
Bevin’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The rift between Beshear and Bevin shows no signs of lightening up.
The attorney general took issue with Bevin’s claim during his State of the Commonwealth address that the backlog of untested sexual assault kits was “finally cleared up.”
“No, it’s not solved,” said Beshear. “Listen, it’s a real disservice to victims that have gone through one of the worse crimes to suggest their case is somewhere that it’s not.”
“I think we’ve got 2,000 kits out there that haven’t even gone through the national lab and I can’t imagine what one of those people, who the criminal justice system has already failed, heard that speech and thought that their kit had been through only to probably learn the next day when they called that it hadn’t been.”
A call to the Kentucky State Police Crime Lab verified that not all of the kits have been tested and sent back to Kentucky by an out-of-state vendor.
Today appears to be the latest chapter in a feud between the governor and attorney general which shows no signs of letting up.
Beshear said that he did not enter office to be in constant conflict with Bevin but said that the governor has made no attempt to try to develop a good working relationship.
“I have tried,” Beshear said. “In fact, last week on February 2, the chief deputy went over to talk to the governor’s general counsel to ask if we could sit down and figure out a way beyond this. The response was another letter that day, and I guess you saw the press release this morning.”
Beshear was referring to a statement released by Bevin earlier in the day saying that Beshear was “shirking his duty” by not “vigorously” defending in court a recently enacted state law that requires a woman to have an ultrasound before an abortion.
Beshear responded by saying that he is taking “the most aggressive action possible.”
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