Attorney General Beshear says he will announce "some steps" in possible investigation into Bevin home purchase soon

08/02/2017 05:16 PM

LEXINGTON – After the Executive Branch Ethics Commission opined that he would need to recuse himself from investigating Gov. Matt Bevin’s home purchase if he plans to challenge the governor in 2019, Attorney General Andy Beshear could provide some insight on whether he plans to launch an inquiry in the coming days.

Beshear has questioned Bevin’s $1.6 million purchase of a Jefferson County home from political donor and state contractor Neil Ramsey.

The Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator has said the property is worth about $2.5 million, but Bevin has said the price he paid is fair and has appealed the assessment, with his attorney saying the home’s value is actually around $1.4 million.

“We’re going to be able to announce some steps here in the near future,” Beshear told reporters Wednesday after announcing a consumer-protection lawsuit against Auto Plaza USA. “What’s important to me is that the people of Kentucky shouldn’t have to wait any longer to get the actual facts on this house.”

“This is a situation that all the facts need to come out,” he added. “That can happen one of two ways – the governor being fully transparent and providing them or someone ultimately learning what those facts are and laying them out for the people of Kentucky.”

Bevin’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Beshear also lambasted the Executive Branch Ethics Commission’s opinion that stipulated his need to step away from any investigation into Bevin if he decides to run against him in 2019 as well as its decision to dismiss a pair of complaints alleging ethics violations in the home sale.

The commission ruled last month that the transaction did not violate the state’s ethics code because Bevin’s office did not contract with or regulate any of Ramsey’s businesses and because Ramsey does not lobby Bevin’s office.

Beshear said the panel “ought to be ashamed” and criticized Bevin for his decision to roll back an executive order that allowed the attorney general and state auditor to nominate some appointees to the ethics board.

“The opinion is shameful,” Beshear said. “It suggests that a state contractor can give a governor a house or hand a governor a bag of money, and it’s not an ethics violation as long as they’re not a state lobbyist. That is not the law. It should not be our ethics rules, and it’s incredibly unfortunate that that’s how the ethics commission ruled.”

Whether Beshear will ultimately challenge Bevin politically and mount a gubernatorial bid in 2019 remains to be seen.

When asked about his political plans, he said that decision “just needs to wait” as he focuses on his first term as attorney general.

“I’m not going to make any announcement or even any decision in the near future,” he said. “I am solely focused on being the best attorney general that I can be, and I think you see a real contrast in leadership right now. Take yesterday. The governor spent yesterday cyber-bullying, name-calling and talking politics. I spent yesterday in Henderson hosting a drug forum.”

That’s a reference to Bevin’s tweets Tuesday accusing The Courier Journal, WAVE-TV and WDRB-TV of flying a drone over his home as assessors prepared to inspect his home as part of the appeal process. WDRB-TV later acknowledged flying the drone.

In a radio interview with WHAS-AM’s Terry Meiners Tuesday, Bevin criticized his potential Democratic challengers in 2019, calling them “somewhat delusional.”

“Jack Conway was a much more formidable competitor than any of the people that I see in the wings for the Democrat party,” Bevin said. “If I do run again, whoever they bring, giddy up.”

Beshear also rejected the Republican Party of Kentucky’s continued calls for him to recuse himself from his office’s inquiry into the University of Louisville Foundation. Auditors say foundation leaders spent several million over budget and that the nonprofit’s board did not provide adequate oversight of spending.

RPK spokesman Tres Watson penned an editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday, saying Beshear’s legal work for Stites & Harbison, which counseled the university’s foundation, board and hospital, and his past role on the school’s Board of Overseers present conflicts of interest. Beshear has said his representation of U of L was limited to the school’s hospital.

“This investigation is too big and the potential impact on the state and U of L is too broad to put the case at risk by ignoring these conflicts,” Watson wrote. “In order to maintain the integrity and public trust in the investigation and avoid giving anyone who may potentially be convicted grounds for appeal, the attorney general must recuse himself and appoint a special prosecutor.”

But Beshear pushed back on Wednesday.

“It doesn’t matter if they (RPK) attack me or they cheer me, we’re going to do the right thing every time,” he told reporters. “Somebody has got to get to the bottom of these activities that occurred in the U of L Foundation, and we’re taking the responsibility to do it.”


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