Attorney General Beshear suing Gov. Bevin over executive order reorganizing education boards

06/20/2017 04:22 PM

Attorney General Andy Beshear is taking Gov. Matt Bevin to court for the fourth time, suing the governor on Tuesday over his executive order reorganizing seven education-oriented boards.

Beshear warned of a possible lawsuit June 7, giving Bevin a week to rescind or amend his June 2 executive order that created the Charter Schools Advisory Council and altered a number of other boards, including the Kentucky Board of Education.

The Republican governor issued a revised version of the executive order on Friday, but the changes made weren’t enough to stave off legal action in Franklin Circuit Court by the Democratic attorney general, whose office indicated in the suit that the amended order “did not significantly change the Governor’s unconstitutional and unlawful actions with respect to the seven (7) statutory education boards.”

Beshear said in a statement that Bevin “could have avoided this lawsuit simply by following the law.”

“A governor does not have ‘absolute authority’ over state boards and cannot ignore, suspend and rewrite laws passed by the general assembly that create independent boards, outline their structure and set mandatory terms for their members,” he said.

“My job as attorney general is to enforce the Constitution, to maintain the separation of powers and to ensure no branch of government exceeds its powers granted to it by the people. Everyone must follow the law, regardless of position and regardless of party.”

But Bevin spokesman Woody Maglinger said the governor’s executive order reorganizing various education boards “is legal, proper and in the best interest of our students.”

“Attorney General Andy Beshear’s latest lawsuit is just another example of him placing politics above the law,” Maglinger said in a statement.

“Last year AG Beshear used the same statute to re-organize his office, and the General Assembly refused to accept his proposed changes. Why didn’t he look in the mirror and sue himself? Why isn’t he being honest with the people of Kentucky?”

Beshear spokesman Terry Sebastian countered that Franklin Circuit Court has rejected a similar argument from Bevin’s attorneys as they defended his authority to reorganize the University of Louisville’s board of trustees, a decision that is under appeal before the Kentucky Supreme Court.

“The court found a significant difference between a cabinet or division under the direct control of the governor or attorney general and a university board that is created by the General Assembly to be independent, with statutory limitations on the governor’s influence such as mandatory member terms and limitations on removal,” Sebastian said in a statement. “The education boards reorganized by Gov. Bevin were similarly created by the General Assembly to be independent.”

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, called Beshear’s decision to pursue legal action “disheartening.” He also noted that Beshear’s father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, reorganized the Kentucky State Fair Board and Kentucky Horse Racing Commission without legal challenges by former Attorney General Jack Conway, a fellow Democrat.

“It is important to note Attorney General Beshear took no action when the racial and political makeup of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees violated Kentucky law,” Stivers said in a statement. “He also has vigorously refused to defend the Commonwealth in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU seeking to overturn a pro-life law that was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.”

“This lawsuit is simply political grandstanding by Attorney General Beshear,” Stivers added. “It is disappointing that he is wasting the Court’s time and your tax dollars just to score political points.”

Aside the ongoing UofL lawsuit, the two sides are also involved in a case on Bevin’s reorganization of the Kentucky Retirement Systems’ board of trustees that’s currently in Franklin Circuit Court. Beshear won a lawsuit challenging funding cuts to state universities last year.


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