FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A former government official who had served as second in command at the Kentucky Justice Cabinet was charged Monday with violating the state's ethics code by allegedly using his position to solicit money for Gov. Steve Beshear's re-election campaign last year.
The Executive Branch Ethics Commission took the action against former Deputy Justice Secretary Charles Geveden after finding probable cause to believe that he called employees in the Justice Cabinet and assigned "a specific dollar amount" that they should contribute based on their positions and salaries.
Ethics Commission Executive Director John Steffen said employees making $90,000 or more were told they should make the maximum allowable campaign contribution of $1,000.
"So, basically, you have a person in authority calling you up and saying 'hey, you need to support the governor in the next campaign,'" Steffen said.
Geveden's attorney, Guthrie True of Frankfort, said he had been out of town Monday on an unrelated case and hasn't yet reviewed the ethics charges so he couldn't comment.
The case is getting attention beyond the Ethics Commission. True said investigators from the FBI and the attorney general's office have been questioning people about the allegations.
Steffen said Geveden, who resigned from the Justice Cabinet a year ago, also was charged by the Ethics Commission with a second count of using his position to obtain the unlisted home phone and cellphone numbers of the subordinates he called on to make contributions.
"That is not something the campaign could have acquired," Steffen said. "But Mr. Geveden, as deputy secretary of the cabinet, had access to personnel records and used those to his advantage to gain information that he could call people on their personnel cellphone numbers that would not otherwise be available."
In a third count, the Ethics Commission charged Geveden with calling on one of his subordinates, a supervisor in the Justice Cabinet, to solicit campaign contributions from his employees. That supervisor wasn't identified.
"During this encounter, Geveden attempted to provide the subordinate with a list of the employees Geveden wanted him to solicit," according to an Ethics Commission document that outlines the charges. "This list included the individual employees' salaries and the amounts of their expected campaign donations."
Steffen said his agency's investigation found no evidence that Beshear knew about government employees being solicited for contributions.
"There's nothing that suggests that," he said. "I can't say definitively."
Geveden could face fines of up to $5,000 for each of three counts and a public reprimand in the case that could take months to resolve.
Steffen declined to comment on whether others may be charged with ethics violations in the case.