by Tom Loftus, @TomLoftus_CJ –
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Gov. Matt Bevin on Tuesday issued an executive order stripping the state attorney general and auditor of their abilities to nominate candidates to the governor to appoint to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.
Bevin’s order declares “null and void” part of a 2008 executive order by then-Gov. Steve Beshear that required the governor directly make the first appointment to the ethics commission, but that his second appointment come from three nominees of the attorney general and his third from three nominees of the state auditor.
This rotation in the nomination process established by Steve Beshear is eliminated by Bevin’s order, and now all appointments will be made by the governor without being restricted to select from nominees of the attorney general or auditor.
Bevin Communications Director Jessica Ditto said the order merely returns the appointment process to the wording of the state law.
“This executive order returns the process for appointment of vacancies on the executive branch ethics commission back to the original legislative intent.” Ditto said in a statement.”Former governor Beshear’s executive order effectively changed the statute without legislative approval.”
Attorney General Andy Beshear, the former governor’s son and who has filed lawsuits challenging other Bevin executive orders dealing with state boards, said Tuesday he had not examined this one.
“I’m not as concerned with my personal ability to nominate as to make sure that we have a fair and correct executive branch ethics commission that will opt to do the right thing and not serve any specific individual,” Beshear said.
Auditor Mike Harmon said Bevin’s order “returns the appointment of membership to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission to the statute as originally set forth by the General Assembly,”
“It is the prerogative of Gov. Bevin to rescind any prior order as he deems necessary,” he said.
Jill LeMaster, who served as executive director of the executive branch ethics commission from 1993-2008, said that the commission had sought changes in the law requiring other statewide officers to make nominations to the governor. The General Assembly never passed that, and Steve Beshear did it by executive order.
“I believe including more constitutional officers in the process makes the commission a more independent commission,” LeMaster said. “… Otherwise all commission members are appointed by the governor and the appearance is not as independent as it could be.”
The Executive Branch Ethics Commission is a five-member board that investigates and rules in allegations of state ethics code violations by officials within the executive branch of state government. Executive branch lobbyists are also required to register with the commission, and all high-ranking executive branch officials are required to file annual personal financial disclosure statements with the commission.
Currently, there are no vacancies on the commission, but terms of two members – former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Martin Johnstone and attorney Rick Masters, both of Louisville, expire in July. According to the rotation schedule that Bevin’s order eliminated in Tuesday’s order, one of these vacancies would have been filled by direct gubernatorial appointment, but the other would have been filled by appointment of one of three nominees of Attorney General Beshear.
Reporter Tom Loftus can be reached at (502) 875-5136 or email@example.com.