Politics

An attorney for Gov. Matt Bevin argued during a hearing on Wednesday that county officials overestimated the value of the governor’s home, considering the mansion is old, in disrepair and has water damage.

The governor’s purchase has come under scrutiny after the Courier-Journal first reported that Bevin paid around $1 million less than official estimates deemed the house and surrounding 10 acres were worth.

Bevin bought the property from Neil Ramsey, a political donor and fellow investment manager who the governor appointed to the board that manages one of the state’s pension systems.

Attorney Mark Sommer, who is representing Bevin in his appeal, said the house is in disrepair because it’s so old.

“Most of the historical issues would be moisture, flooding basements, all of that moisture delivering problems in the sub-structure but also to the floor joists,” Sommer said at the hearing.

Bevin purchased the mansion located in the Louisville suburb of Anchorage in March for $1.6 million, seemingly a more than $1 million discount compared to Jefferson County’s official property estimate of $2.97 million for the house and surrounding 19 acres.

The governor said the county’s estimate is flawed because he only owns 10 acres of the surrounding land and the house is old and in disrepair.

John May, a former Jefferson County PVA hired by Bevin’s team, estimated the house and property were worth only $1.39 million.

May also argued the nearby home sales the PVA used to help assess Bevin’s home weren’t good comparisons.

In response, attorneys representing the county requested the appeals board have access to Bevin’s property—including the inside of the mansion—in order to assess the governor’s claims that the home is in disrepair.

The house deal has become the target of two ethics complaints; both Richard Beliles, chairman of watchdog group Common Cause of Kentucky, and Louisville Democratic Rep. Darryl Owens filed complaints over the deal with the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.

Attorney General Andy Beshear also asked the commission to weigh in on whether it would be a conflict of interest for him to investigate the deal, since Bevin might be a future political opponent if Beshear decides to run for governor in 2019.  Earlier this week, the commission issued an advisory opinion, saying Beshear shouldn’t look into the deal if he plans to oppose Bevin, but could appoint a third party investigator.

Bevin filled a vacancy on the commission last week—giving him a majority of appointees on the board days before it was scheduled to review the complaints.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.