FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Personnel Board will investigate whether Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes broke state law by relying on politics to influence hiring decisions for state workers.
The inquiry comes as Grimes, a Democrat, is considering challenging Republican Gov. Matt Bevin for re-election in 2019. The Personnel Board has seven members, five of whom are appointed by Bevin. But the allegations come from Jared Dearing, a Democrat and the executive director of the Kentucky State Board of Elections.
Dearing first revealed his concerns to the State Board of Elections last month. Grimes, as secretary of state, is that board’s chairwoman. She called a special meeting to discuss the allegations. Two Republican members of the board tried to postpone the meeting, but Grimes cast the deciding vote. The board then met behind closed doors for hours before unanimously voting on a resolution reaffirming Grimes has access to the voter registration database and directing Dearing to report to her. Grimes did not vote on that resolution.
Friday, Dearing took his concerns to the Kentucky Personnel Board, which acts as an impartial judge of disputes between state government and its employees.
Dearing gave the board detailed records that showed Grimes’ office accessed the voter registration information for two people who had applied for a job at the State Board of Elections. One applicant was a Democrat and the other was a Republican. Dearing said Grimes’ staff urged him to hire the Democrat, even though he said the Republican was more qualified. Dearing hired the Republican, but he gave the Democrat a job as a contractor.
“I have been a Democrat since I was 18,” Dearing said. “This is not about party politics. This is about the welfare of our system.”
In a news release, Grimes’ spokesman Bradford Queen said the “majority Republican” Personnel Board “has no jurisdiction to determine access to Kentucky’s voter registration system.”
“Any allegations that party affiliation has ever affected the hiring and personnel action of merit employees is unequivocally false and easily disproven,” he said.
Grimes has said she needs access to the voter registration database to perform her duties as the state’s chief election officer, which include certifying voter registration turnout. She has called Dearing’s allegations “bizarre” and noted that Dearing’s job performance had been “under review” at the time he first made his accusations.