Kentucky Lt. Gov. Files Suit Against Governor Over Staffing Decisions

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin speaks to a joint session of the General Assembly at the Capitol in Frankfort, Ky. (Associated Press)

(CN) – Kentucky’s lieutenant governor sued her boss Thursday, claiming that Gov. Matthew Bevin lacks authority to hire and fire her staff members.

Jenean Hampton asked the Franklin County Circuit Court to fast-track her request for an injunction to stop Bevin from limiting her appointments and firing her staff.

Hampton informed the court that she only has 117 days left in her term.

“Every day that passes while she is wrongfully deprived of the rights, authority and privileges which are attendant to her office is one more day for which there is no remedy at law,” the complaint stated.

Hampton added that she did not consent to the “putative terminations” of her Chief of Staff, Stephen Knipper, and his deputy, Adrienne Southworth.

WPSD-TV reported that Knipper was fired in January 2019 and that Southworth complained that her investigation into the termination led to her own firing in May.

Bevin dropped Hampton as his running mate in his reelection campaign, the TV station reported.

Knipper is running for Kentucky Secretary of State.

According to the lawsuit, they appealed the firings to the Personnel Board, only to have Bevin’s counsel argue that they were hired by the governor and served at his pleasure.

“This narrative is fictional,” Hampton countered. “It was the lieutenant governor who interviewed, selected and appointed both Knipper and Southworth.”

Hampton stated that she was asserting her rights as lieutenant governor, not challenging the decisions of the Personnel Board, which is also a defendant in the lawsuit.

She also argued that several portions of the Kentucky Constitution make it clear that the governor and his lieutenant hold two separate offices, and that hers is not a part of his.

Hampton quoted a state law that stated that “the heads of all departments shall exercise supervision over the personnel of their respective departments.”

She attached last week’s opinion of the Attorney General Andy Beshear and his assistant Taylor Payne. They agreed with her that her employees “serve at the will of the Lieutenant Governor.”

Asking the court for a temporary injunction, she stated that the Personnel Cabinet “must be directed to accept, recognize and process Hampton’s appointees promptly and Bevin (and those acting under his authority) must be enjoined from interfering with Hampton’s appointing authority.”

Attorneys Joshua Harp and John Baughman of Frankfort filed the lawsuit on Hampton’s behalf. Harp had no further comments, and the governor’s office has not yet responded to an email request for comment.

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