Attorney General Beshear reviewing ethics panel's advisory opinion on investigating Gov. Bevin, mum on 2019 plans

07/18/2017 02:59 PM

LA GRANGE – Attorney General Andy Beshear says his office is reviewing an opinion by the Executive Branch Ethics Commission that will hinder his ability to investigate a home sale involving Gov. Matt Bevin if he decides to challenge Bevin in 2019.

Beshear, after speaking to a group of senior citizens on his office’s Scam Alerts program at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in La Grange Tuesday, told reporters he hoped to make an announcement on his next move regarding Bevin’s purchase of a Jefferson County home in the coming days.

The ethics panel’s advisory opinion released Monday says Beshear, a Democrat, should direct any investigations into Bevin, a Republican, to another law enforcement office or risk running afoul of the state’s ethics code if he decides to run for governor in 2019. Beshear has not announced his intentions for the next constitutional election cycle.

“While we will review the opinion, what’s important to me is that the public ultimately gets the facts on the purchase of this home,” Beshear said. “The public gets to decide and see whether the governor has engaged in personal enrichment and how much.”

Beshear has raised questions about a $1.6 million property sale between Bevin and Neil Ramsey, a supporter who sits on the board of a company, eBridge, with a state contract first awarded by Beshear’s father, former Gov. Steve Beshear.

Bevin and Ramsey have defended the sale, which covers 10 acres of a 19-acre property, as fair. The Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator’s office has valued the entire 19-acre tract at nearly $3 million while the City of Anchorage has it valued at $2.2 million in its entirety. Bevin has appealed the PVA’s assessment.

But the ethics opinion would limit Beshear’s ability to make political hay out of an investigation into Bevin’s home purchase whether he decides to run for governor or seek re-election as attorney general in 2019.

“If you intend to run for the office of governor in the 2019 election cycle, in line with its advice given in Advisory Opinion 03-05 and 06-16, then the Commission will advise you to refer any potential investigations of the current Governor to other law enforcement agencies over which you do not exercise control as the Attorney General,” the opinion reads.

“If, however, you are willing to declare affirmatively that you will not run for the office of Governor during the 2019 election cycle, nor will you assist others in their run against the current Governor during the 2019 election cycle, then you and your office will not have a conflict of interest or be perceived as you using the office of the Attorney General to further yours and others political interest.”

Beshear said he his office is “very closely reviewing” the ethics commission’s limitations on helping candidates opposing Bevin in the next election cycle.

“If it means you can’t speak in favor of something, obviously there’s some First Amendment issues there, so we’re going to very carefully analyze it,” he said. “That was something entirely new. That was seemingly placed in at the end of a sentence. That wasn’t in either previous ethics opinion.”

It’s unclear whether the ethics opinion has changed Beshear’s timetable for making a decision on mounting a gubernatorial bid. He said he was happy in his current role as attorney general when pressed by reporters.

“I love this job, and because I love it, because we get to help so many people, I’m just focused on doing it right now,” he said.

The ethics commission’s advisory opinion can be downloaded here: Advisory Opinion 17-07.pdf

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers Kentucky politics and all the goings-on at the State Capitol. Kevin was born and raised in Frankfort so he grew up around politics and has always had the drive to follow the political process and hold lawmakers accountable. Before joining Spectrum News Kevin covered government and politics for The State Journal in Frankfort. You can watch Kevin’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135.

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