UPDATE: Former Kentucky secretary of state denies ethics violations
The Executive Branch Ethics Commission alleges she used her office for personal and political purposes
Update from December 14, 2021:
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) – Alison Lundergan Grimes has denied ethics commission allegations that she improperly used her former position as Kentucky’s secretary of state for personal and political reasons, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.
Documents obtained by the newspaper through Kentucky’s open records law show the prominent Democrat and her former assistant, Erica Galyon, filed their responses last week to charges from the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.
The commission accused Grimes in an order last month of using her position to benefit Democratic candidates ahead of the 2016 election and using the state voter registration system for a “personal, private purpose.” Galyon rejected a claim she improperly withheld records from the news media.
The order alleges the information was intended to benefit members of Grimes’ party, but the response does not reference the partisan leanings of the candidates.
Her response refers to a 2020 opinion from Franklin Circuit Court that states voting rolls are public records, and it says she only used information from the registration system in her capacities as secretary of state and the Kentucky’s chief election official.
Signees on the response included prominent Kentucky attorney J. Guthrie True, who told the Herald-Leader the ethics commission’s allegations were “frivolous.”
True also represented Grimes’ father, businessman and former state Democratic Party chair Jerry Lundergan, who was ordered to prison earlier this year. A jury convicted him and political consultant Dale Emmons in 2019 of conspiring to illegally contribute more than $200,000 from one of Lundergan’s companies to Grimes’ unsuccessful 2014 U.S. Senate campaign.
Grimes was twice elected secretary of state, in 2011 and 2015. She left office in 2019 due to term limits.
Katie Gabhart, the commission’s executive director, said it could be several months before an administrative hearing on the ethics charges is held. Grimes faces a maximum of $10,000 in fines and Galyon could be fined up to $5,000.
Original story below from November 18, 2021:
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Alison Lundergan Grimes is accused of improperly using her office for personal and political purposes while serving as Secretary of State, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
The report says the Executive Branch Ethics Commission sent Grimes and her former assistant secretary of state, Erica Galyon, “initiating orders,” which officially allege the two violated the state ethics code.
Grimes is accused of directing subordinates to download information through the state’s Voter Registration System without going through the proper channels for a “personal, private purpose,” according to the newspaper.
The second allegation says Grimes, prior to the 2016 election, improperly used her position to benefit Democratic candidates, according to the report.
The newspaper says Grimes couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
The commission also alleges Galyon improperly withheld records from the news media in 2018-19, according to the report.
Citing the order, the report says Galyon had previously given the same records to Grimes’ personal legal counsel, and altered the records that she ultimately gave to the media.
Grimes and Galyon have 20-days to respond once served the documents. Then, the matter goes to an administrative hearing officer, a private attorney on contract with the commission, who will hear the merits of the case and render a decision, according to the report.
The two could be subject to as much as $5,000 in fines and a public reprimand, according to the newspaper report.
They can also subpoena witnesses on their own behalf and can appeal any final commission order in Franklin Circuit Court in Frankfort, according to the report.
Grimes was first elected Secretary of State in 2011 and re-elected in 2015. Term limits kept her from running for a third term. She left office in 2019.
In 2014, Grimes lost a run for U.S. Senate to Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell. Grimes’ father, former state lawmaker and former head of the Kentucky Democratic Party, Jerry Lundergan, is scheduled to report to federal prison at the end of this month after being convicted of funneling illegal campaign contributions to his daughter’s failed senate campaign in 2014 and trying to cover it up.