LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) – Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton is taking the Bevin administration to court after two of her staffers were fired against her wishes.
Hampton’s chief of staff Steve Knipper was terminated Jan. 29 without cause, and Hampton attempted to use her constitutional power on the same day to reappoint him. Administrative assistant Adrienne Southworth was terminated without cause May 30. Hampton sent a letter to the Office of Administrative Services directing it to reinstate Southworth the same day.
In a suit filed Thursday in Franklin County Circuit Court, Hampton asked the court to intervene.
Hampton alleges her “rights as the Lieutenant Governor have been violated.”
Gov. Matt Bevin did not comment on the specific allegations.
He described the firing of Hampton’s aides as merely a personnel matter.
“And that’s why this is a non-issue,” Bevin said. “I know that you’re so excited at the idea of making this into something. It’s nothing.”
Hampton previously requested a legal opinion from the office of the state Attorney General Andy Beshear, Bevin’s Democratic opponent in this year’s gubernatorial race.
Last week, the opinion stated Hampton had the right to hire and fire her own employees.
The lawsuit comes at a time when Bevin is in the critical stages of a re-election campaign. Voters go to the polls in just a little more than two months.
Bevin seemed to be mindful of the timing of Hampton’s lawsuit.
“In her tenure, there’s another two and a half months of time,” Bevin said. “She has the ability to do things for the people of Kentucky. And what she chooses to do is her prerogative.”
Democratic Governors’ Association Communications Director David Turner said in a statement that “the longer this lawsuit drags on, the harder it will be for Bevin to unite his party before November, and that spells trouble for the most unpopular governor in the country.”
Bevin told reporters Thursday he has a good relationship with Hampton in spite of their legal dispute.
When asked how voters should view the legal dispute, Bevin said, “I think people should let it run its course. I think you, too, should as well. And let it fall out wherever it falls out.”
A hearing on the matter has been scheduled for Aug. 19. Hampton’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Bevin Communications Director Elizabeth Kuhn released a statement saying: “The matter is currently before the personnel board, and it is inappropriate for a lawsuit to be filed before the board issues its decision. We will move for immediate dismissal of the complaint.”