Latest GOP-Democrat spat in state over possible conflict

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The latest political theatrics between the state’s Republican and Democratic parties took another turn Thursday with Democrats saying Republicans should checks their facts before firing off accusatory press releases.

In a press release Thursday morning, the Republican Party of Kentucky raised questions about the behavior of former Democratic State Senator and current Beshear Administration official Dorsey Ridley.

The questions were based on state-required filings on Ridley and his family’s finances.

The Republican Party claimed that while serving as executive director of the then-Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy, Ridley oversaw investments and loans distributed by the Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation, an entity that provides loans and other capital to beginning farmers, farm families, and agribusinesses to establish, maintain or expand their agricultural operation.

The press release alleged that while managing the Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation, Ridley was also receiving a salary from Independence Bank.

The accusations were credited to Republican Party of Kentucky spokesman Mike Lonergan.

The Republican Party also said two of Ridley’s e-mails “raise questions about the behavior of top governor’s office staff.”

“In one email, Ridley seemingly refers to Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles as a “SOB” after making sarcastic comments about the Commissioner’s education. In another email, Ridley, who was serving as one of the Governor’s top agricultural advisors, passed along the policy book adopted by Kentucky Farm Bureau, the largest farm organization in the state, and sarcastically added he knew that the Governor’s Office ‘just couldn’t wait to see it’,” Lonergan said in the release.

“Does the Governor believe that these emails reflect a true ‘Team Kentucky’ culture?” asked Lonergan of the RPK. “Kentuckians deserve to know if the Governor is truly committed to the unifying tone he claims to support, or if he stands by these comments about our state agriculture commissioner and the biggest farm organization in the state.”

In response, Gov. Andy Beshear’s office said the Republicans should have checked its facts.

“If the Republican Party of Kentucky would have taken time to ask a few questions before issuing this baseless attack, they would have found that Mr. Ridley did not work in 2020 for any bank and that his December 2019 salary, from his previous employer, simply was paid in early January 2020. Mr. Ridley was not employed at the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy until nearly eight months later, Sept. 1, 2020,” Beshear spokesperson Crystal Staley said in an e-mail response to WTVQ ABC 36 News.

“The administration agrees that name-calling is never appropriate and is pleased to see that the RPK now agrees. We hope they will no longer engage in personal attacks, name-calling or other such activities moving forward,” Staley said referring to the GOP’s frequent attacks on Beshear and his staff.

Citing minutes of the board in question, Staley also noted “beginning farmers approach a bank for a farm loan, and the board makes the decision to approve the applicant. At the time, the board making approvals consisted of a majority of Gov. Bevin appointments and the chair was Commissioner Ryan Quarles. Mr. Ridley did not have a vote in approving which beginning farmers applications were approved.”

Staley explained the payroll schedule for many businesses is semi-monthly, meaning an employee is paid after they have completed work – in this case work performed in December 2019 was paid in January 2020. The 2021 Statement of Financial Disclosure is for calendar year 2020. Mr. Ridley is currently employed as executive director of the Governor’s Office of Emerging Industries.

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