A look back at some of the memorable quotes and moments from Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin during his first year in office.
Gov. Matt Bevin last week took another shot at Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear over a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a former employee, the latest of several personnel storms Beshear’s office has weathered including the recent federal fraud conviction of a former top deputy and the abrupt departure of an expert in open records law.
“There’s a big stinking mess over in his office,” said Bevin, who has publicly chided Beshear, the son of former Gov. Steve Beshear, also a past target of Bevin’s ire. “He needs to get his house in order.”
The whistleblower lawsuit filed by a former lawyer with the attorney general’s office alleges she was forced to resign in April after complaining that male lawyers were paid better than females and given better work assignments. Andy Beshear’s office has disputed the claim.
Meanwhile, Bevin’s administration finds itself in the unlikely position of defending the state against two other whistleblower claims filed last year involving lurid allegations that two workers ran an online business out of the Public Protection Cabinet selling “sex toys, sensual enhancement items and premium lubricants” during the administration of Steve Beshear.
And in all three of the whistleblower claims, an alleged central figure is state lawyer La Tasha Buckner, who formerly worked at public protection but now works in the attorney general’s office as executive director of civil and environmental law.
“They have a common denominator,” said Covington lawyer Shane Sidebottom, who has filed all three of the whistleblower complaints pending in Franklin Circuit Court. “A career employee who continues to move from agency to agency and cause problems.”
Terry Sebastian, a spokesman for Andy Beshear, declined to comment on Bevin’s comments or allegations involving Buckner.
But J. Michael Brown, deputy attorney general, denied any employment discrimination at the attorney general’s office.
“The allegations in the complaint are untrue and will be disproven in court,” Brown said.
Lainie Kaiser, a former lawyer with the attorney general’s office, alleges she suffered retaliation and eventually was forced to resign after reporting to Buckner her concerns that she was denied a raise while male workers were paid better and given preferential work assignments.
Brown said Andy Beshear’s office is the “most diverse in recent memory” and “does not tolerate sexism in any form.” The attorney general’s office also provided a copy of Kaiser’s Aug. 18 letter of resignation.
Sidebottom said Kaiser had no choice.
“She was presented with a termination letter and given the opportunity to resign,” he said. “It certainly was not voluntary.”
The two women filed their lawsuits last year before Bevin took office. But his administration is now faced with defending the state against the claims.
A Bevin spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Jacqueline Heyman, a former lawyer with public protection, alleged she was fired in August 2015 by Buckner, who “handed her a letter stating that her services were no longer needed” after she reported her concerns about Pure Romance.
Kimberly Whitley, also a lawyer with public protection, alleges she suffered retaliation and was threatened with potential disciplinary action after she voiced complaints.
Both Whitley and Heyman also complained to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission. Sidebottom said the commission opened an investigation, which is pending.
Meanwhile, the two workers who allegedly ran the Pure Romance business still work at public protection, Sidebottom said.
Buckner also figured in the abrupt retirement in August of Amye Bensenhaver, a career employee in the attorney general’s office and acknowledged expert in the area of open records law. During her 25 years at the office, Bensenhaver researched and wrote many of the opinions in which the office was asked to resolve disputes over access to public records of meetings.
Bensenhaver told The Courier-Journal she resigned after she received a five-page written reprimand from Buckner after talking with a reporter about open meetings without going through the office’s media spokesman.
The reprimand accused Bensenhaver with “a lack of good conduct and unsatisfactory performance of your duties.”
Bensenhaver acknowledged violating the office policy but said she found Buckner’s reprimand overly harsh.
Brown said Bensenhaver was a “valuable employee” who elected to retire. “The office would have been pleased if she stayed,” he added.
Contact reporter Deborah Yetter at (502) 582-4228 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Governor Matt Bevin chastised the media for jumping to conclusions that his corruption investigation was specifically former governor Steve Beshear. Bevin says the investigation is looking at all corners of state government, including UofL board.