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Beshear administration in legal battle with former Bevin staffer over missing documents

Published: Jul. 24, 2020 at 5:59 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 24, 2020 at 11:38 AM CDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The Beshear Administration is fighting to have public records returned to the state.

According to court documents, one of former governor Matt Bevin’s staffers is refusing to turn over missing public records that relate to a state contract.

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Beshear’s administration filed a motion to compel in this case Tuesday, July 20. The goal is to have Gwendolyn Pinson, who was on Bevin’s legal team in 2016, comply with a subpoena.

It all started when Beshear’s transition team found out files were missing ahead of his inauguration in December 2019.

The motion indicates that Cabinet officials found that public records, including legal and investigative files, were removed from at the direction of officials leaving office.

The missing files the motion is referencing include documents from an investigation started by Bevin’s team in 2016. The goal was to look into what Bevin called corruption by former Governor Steve Beshear and then-Attorney General Andy Beshear.

The Bevin Administration was looking to hire an outside law firm for that investigation. The firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister won the bid in June of that year.

However, emails in the motion show Bevin staffers, including Pinson, gave the firm details about the bid, and what the state wanted, more than a month before it was open for contracts. Records also show an early draft of the contract did not require the law firm to be impartial. Only one other firm filed.

According to the motion filed by the Beshear Administration, Pinson told attorneys and other Bevin staffers multiple times to only use their personal emails when talking about “sensitive conversations”. Attorneys for Governor Beshear claim the use of personal emails was to get around the Kentucky Open Records Act.

Beshear’s legal team also said emails show that Bevin’s Administration wanted to quote “trash” a member of Beshear’s staff at the time. They also claimed Bevin’s team wanted to use the legal process to influence the public opinion ahead of the November 2016 general election. In that election, Republicans took control of the Kentucky House of Representatives for the first time in 95 years.

Currently, Pinson argues she doesn’t have to turn over the records, citing attorney-client privilege, as she was on Bevin’s legal team at the time.

Beshear’s staff said taxpayers paid for the work done through the personal emails, therefore the information belongs to the Commonwealth.

They said they have evidence of the exchanges from records kept by Taft Stettinius & Hollister. The law firm gave those records up in January of this year.

This case is currently in the hands of a Fayette Circuit Court judge. Pinson could be found in contempt of court and charged if she doesn’t cooperate.

State Rep. Jason Nemes, a Republican who represents eastern Jefferson County and Oldham County, is serving as Pinson’s attorney in this case.

Copyright 2020 WKYT. All rights reserved.

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