Kentucky governor faces second ethics complaint over home

Posted at 6:51 PM, Jun 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-05 18:51:53-04

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin was hit with a second ethics complaint, this time from a Democratic lawmaker, over questions about the purchase of the Republican’s personal home.

State Rep. Darryl Owens filed the complaint recently against Bevin and Neil Ramsey, an investment manager and Bevin campaign donor who sold the home where Bevin and his family live.

In his complaint to the Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission, the Louisville lawmaker said it appears the governor “personally enriched himself by at least a million dollars” when comparing the sale price with the assessments of the Louisville-area home and property.

Bevin and Ramsey maintain the home sold at a fair market price.

“This whole thing creates an air of ethical challenge, and I just want the ethics commission to take a look at it,” Owens said in a phone interview Monday. “There is something about this relationship and the transactions which I think warrant a review.”

Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper denounced it as another “frivolous, politically motivated” complaint. She added a warning: “Complainants like these should be aware of the penalties of perjury and making false ethics violation claims.”

Owens’ filing follows a similar complaint made last month by the head of a Kentucky government watchdog group. Both complaints ask the ethics commission to investigate details of the transaction for the mansion where Bevin and his family live.

Bevin last month referred to the first complaint as political “mumbo jumbo.”

The governor bought the home and 10 acres in March for $1.6 million from a Ramsey family company, The Courier-Journal has reported.

Bevin has said he purchased the home through a limited liability company for liability and estate planning purposes, not to try to hide anything. Owens’ complaint, however, questioned whether the LLC was created in hopes of “shrouding the ownership.”

The governor appointed Ramsey to the Kentucky Retirement Systems governing board last year. Ramsey did not return a call to the KRS office Monday, but Bevin recently defended him as “a guy who is doing nothing but serving the people of Kentucky.”

As for Ramsey’s appointment to the KRS board, Bevin said at the time: “You think that’s a lottery pick?” Kentucky is struggling to plug a massive shortfall in its pension system.

Bevin purchased a portion of the property that includes the house.

The Jefferson County property valuation administrator valued the entire 19-acre tract at $2.97 million, The Courier-Journal has reported. Officials in the Louisville suburb of Anchorage valued the same property at $2.2 million, the Louisville newspaper said.

Bevin has appealed the Jefferson County appraisal.

His attorney, Richard Hornung, said the Anchorage valuation “appears to be much more accurate.” He said the $1.6 million purchase price for the home and 10 acres “is a very realistic and fair price” when factoring in easements and deed restrictions on that part of the property, and when considering the value of the property not purchased.