Politics

Gov. Matt Bevin has filled a vacancy on the Executive Branch Ethics Commission days before the agency is scheduled to review complaints that allege the governor used his office to get a deal on a mansion he moved into earlier this year.

The move means Bevin appointees now make up a majority of members on the five-member commission, which is charged with holding Kentucky governors and their administrations accountable.

The new appointee is Owensboro attorney Tim Kline, who donated $200 to Bevin’s gubernatorial campaign in 2015 and has contributed to several other Republican candidates in the state.

Kline also unsuccessfully ran to be a state representative in 2012.

Bevin’s appointment fills a vacancy left by the commission’s chairman, David Denton, who was appointed by former Gov. Steve Beshear and whose term expired on Friday.

The Courier-Journal first reported in March that Bevin and his family moved into an estate in Anchorage that was previously owned by Neil Ramsey, a political donor appointed by the governor to the Kentucky Retirement Systems board.

Both Ramsey and Bevin are investment managers — Ramsey works for RQSI based in Louisville.

According to state records, Ramsey donated $2,000 to Bevin during his successful 2015 gubernatorial race and $15,000 to his inauguration committee. Federal campaign records show Ramsey also donated $10,000 to the Republican Party of Kentucky in both 2015 and 2016.

Bevin paid $1.6 million for the mansion, 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 says the county’s estimate is flawed because he only owns 10 acres of the surrounding land and that the house is old and in disrepair.

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.

The commission will be considering both complaints on Monday, along with a request by Attorney General Andy Beshear to weigh in on whether he has the authority to investigate the deal.

Following Bevin’s appointment of Kline, three of the five members on the commission are now Bevin appointees and two are holdovers from previous Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration.

In 2008, then-Gov. Beshear issued an executive order requiring a governor make two out of every three appointments to the commission based on nominations from the attorney general and state auditor.

Bevin repealed that order last year, giving him total control over the appointment process to the commission.

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