Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton publicly disputed Gov. Matt Bevin on Friday, saying she has never talked with him about his administration’s dismissal of two of her three top staffers without her consent.
Hampton specifically challenged Bevin’s comments in a June 26 Lexington Herald-Leader story in which he tried to play down an embarrassing feud between himself and Hampton after he named state Sen. Ralph Alvarado of Winchester as his lieutenant governor running mate in his bid for reelection.
Bevin told reporters in June that he has a “great relationship” with Hampton, that he had no intention to ask her to resign and that he had talked to her within the last week. He said neither one of them has said “one bad word” about each other.
“Did the governor really say that? Do you stand by your story?” Hampton asked a Herald-Leader reporter during a brief interview.
“I take issue with that,” she said. “Look, I did not talk to him. I’ve never talked with him about the dismissals. My staff has not been treated right and I stand by my staff.”
Hampton did not describe her relationship with Bevin.
“I’m just letting the Lord guide me,” she said.
Hampton’s comments came as the state Personnel Board voted to recognize her request to intervene in the dismissal appeal of her chief of staff, Steve Knipper. Hampton attended the board meeting.
Bevin later said Friday that he was fine with the board’s decision and with Hampton hiring of a lawyer — Joshua Harp of Frankfort —at state expense to handle her request to intervene in Knipper’s appeal.
“I’d be disappointed if they didn’t let anybody have a voice,” Bevin said. “This is still America, I think.”
The Bevin administration fired Knipper in January for his refusal to follow its policy of leaving state government when he decided to run in May’s Republican primary election for secretary of state. He was unsuccessful in the election.
The Bevin Administration then fired Adrienne Southworth, Hampton’s deputy chief of staff, in May. Southworth said she didn’t know why she was fired but that she had been investigating Knipper’s dismissal.
Southworth also has appealed her dismissal to the Personnel Board. She was with the lieutenant governor Friday for the board’s hearing on Knipper’s appeal.
Bevin’s chief of staff, Blake Brickman, has said he had authorized Southworth’s dismissal for “remarkably poor judgment in a number of ways.”
Hampton said in May the firings of her top two staffers were unauthorized and then asked for prayer against the “dark forces” at work against her. She did not elaborate.
The Personnel Board gave Knipper and Public Protection Cabinet attorney Carmine Iaccarino, who is representing the governor, seven days to file their reactions to its decision. Iaccarino said he has reservations about it.
During Friday’s hearing, board chairman Brian Crall, who was personnel secretary in Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s administration and a state representative from Owensboro from 1994 to 2004, questioned by Attorney General Andy Beshear’s office release an opinion Thursday that said Hampton has the authority to hire and fire her own staff.
Crall said he did not know why it was released during the campaign season for governor. Beshear, a Democrat, is trying to beat the Republican Bevin in the Nov. 5 election for governor.
“If it does not cross the line, it’s on the line,” said Crall.
Bevin was asked Friday about Beshear’s opinion.
“It’s about as relevant as most of his opinions. None,” said Bevin.