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Ky. House Panel To Investigate Bevin Retaliation Allegations

Josh James
House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) announces the formation of a committee to investigate allegations made against Republican Gov. Matt Bevin

State House Speaker Greg Stumbo has appointed a five-member committee to dig deeper into accusations that Gov. Matt Bevin made threats and retaliated against Democrats in the chamber, charges the administration has categorically denied.

The newly-minted House Investigatory Committee on Executive Actions – made up of three Democrats and two Republicans – will examine accusations by Nicholasville Rep. Russ Meyer that Bevin put an $11 million road extension project in his Jessamine County district on hold after the lawmaker refused to switch parties.

Speaking with reporters Wednesday, Stumbo maintained the probe isn’t politically motivated.

"It is not an impeachment committee. It is a committee to find out what the facts are," the Prestonsburg Democrat said.

And that could include subpoenas, according to Stumbo.

"I would hope that wouldn't be necessary," he added.

Credit Josh James / WUKY
Bevin Chief of Staff Blake Brickman responds to House Speaker Greg Stumbo's new investigatory panel

But the announcement was quickly greeted with skepticism by a top Bevin administration official. The governor's chief of staff, Blake Brickman, labeled the committee a  “political farce” timed to distract voters from corruption in the Democratic ranks 34 days out from an election.

"Very desperate people do very desperate things. Very, very, very desperate things pull stunts like Speaker Stumbo just did," the spokesman began.

Brickman dismissed the charges as wholly without merit.

"There's never been a single threat to any member of the Democratic legislature ever," he continued. "I've been in every single one of those meetings. Never any threat whatsoever."

To bolster the administration’s case Brickman played a voicemail he said Stumbo left for Rep. David Floyd, a Republican he tapped for the committee.  On it, the voice says: "I think we at least ought to take a look at [the allegations] and, you know, see what happened. I'm sure there's stories probably not as bad as maybe it was portrayed."

During the press conference, the speaker argued, ""Everybody may have a theory, but the facts remain that there is enough here, I think, to seriously question why these actions occurred."

The speaker says the panel could begin meeting as early as next week – with the goal of reporting the findings before the General Assembly convenes in January.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.