AG: Bevin acted 'illegally' in dissolving, reorganizing state education boards

AG: Bevin acted 'illegally' in dissolving, reorganizing state education boards
Gov. Matt Bevin (Source: James Thomas/WAVE 3 News)
Gov. Matt Bevin (Source: James Thomas/WAVE 3 News)

FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear threatened legal action against Gov. Matt Bevin on Wednesday if he doesn't rescind a June 2 executive order dissolving and reorganizing numerous state education boards.

Beshear gave the governor seven days to do so.

"The governor does not have 'absolute authority' over state boards," Beshear said. "He cannot ignore laws passed by the General Assembly that create independent boards, lay out their structure and set mandatory terms for their members."

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Beshear called Bevin's action "unlawful and unconstitutional" and said it "mirrors conduct taken by the governor against the boards of the University of Louisville and the Kentucky Retirement Systems."

Beshear said his duty is to the law and to enforce Kentucky's system of checks and balances. He also said the power claimed by the governor to dissolve or reorganize any state board "eviscerates" all checks and balances and would effectively give him control over all decisions of every state board, including the Registry for Election Finance or the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.

"I'm especially troubled that the governor has hit Kentucky's education system with yet another executive overreach," Beshear said.

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Last year, Beshear challenged the governor's withholding of $18 million from Kentucky's public colleges and universities. The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in September 2016 that the money was unlawfully withheld, and stated in its decision that the job of the attorney general is "to vindicate the public rights of the people of the Commonwealth."

Beshear said his request that the governor rescind the June 2 executive order has nothing to do with charter schools, and it is not a challenge to Senate Bill 1. In fact, the attorney general said, Bevin's board reorganization last week ignores and rewrites portions of Senate Bill 1.

"Gov. Bevin did not veto SB1," Beshear said. "But now he wants to substitute his judgment for that of the General Assembly and singlehandedly change the law."

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In the June 2 executive order, Beshear said, Bevin dissolve four statutorily created boards, removing more than 35 members before the end of their mandatory terms. He then created four new boards with the same names and duties but allowing himself to appoint all new members and the chairs.

"We have seen this type of illegal behavior by the governor time and time again," Beshear said. "My job as attorney general is to enforce the Constitution, to maintain the separation of powers and to ensure no branch of government exceeds the powers that we the people granted to it. I'm hopeful the governor will rescind his executive order and allow the education boards to properly operate under the law - without his undue influence."

There has been no comment yet from the governor's office about Beshear's announcement.

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