Kentucky Attorney General Accuses Governor of Power Grab

Gov. Matt Bevin [photo credit: Gage Skidmore]

FRANKFORT, Ky. (CN) – Kentucky’s Democratic attorney general claims in court that Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is wielding executive power in an unprecedented and abusive way by systematically dissolving state boards and rewriting state law.

Andy Beshear, current attorney general and son of former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, alleges in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Franklin County Circuit Court that Bevin has dissolved or altered 37 state boards since he took office in 2015.

Most notably, the complaint says “in June 2016, Governor Bevin took the unprecedented step of attempting to abolish and ‘reorganize’ two of the Commonwealth’s most prominent boards: the Kentucky Retirement Systems Board of Trustees and the University of Louisville Board of Trustees.”

Lawsuits followed, and the Franklin County Circuit Court recently ruled that Bevin could not exercise authority over the “independent and autonomous governing boards of the Commonwealth’s public universities.”

The governor appealed that decision, and his appeal is currently pending before the Kentucky Supreme Court.

In Tuesday’s lawsuit, Beshear says that “the University of Louisville matter shows the dangers of the Governor’s ‘absolute authority.’ There, the governor’s purging of the board’s trustees resulted in significant damage to the university. His conduct specifically caused the university’s accreditation to be placed on probation, threatening federal student aid, federal research dollars, and even NCAA eligibility.”

The current lawsuit, which is the latest in a number filed by Beshear against Bevin, attacks the governor’s recent decision to reorganize numerous education boards.

“In these reorganizations, Governor Bevin again purged dozens of board members, attempted the change the boards’ statutory structures and experience requirements, and re-wrote statutory provisions in a manner to provide the governor with more power and control than the General Assembly granted,” the complaint states.

Beshear says the executive order issued by Bevin on June 2, which abolished and recreated seven state education boards, violates the Kentucky Constitution.

The complaint claims Bevin’s executive order gives him total control over the appointment of individuals to the boards and rewrites or eliminates certain criteria previously required of board members.

The relationship between the Republican governor and Democratic attorney general has been contentious since Beshear took office in 2016.

Beshear won a legal battle last fall, when the state’s high court ruled that Bevin could not cut state universities’ budgets without congressional approval.

Neither the governor’s officer nor the attorney general’s office immediately returned requests for comment on Beshear’s complaint.

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