FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton has filed suit against Gov. Matt Bevin challenging the firing of her chief of staff and deputy chief of staff earlier this year, escalating a battle that has been waging since January.
According to the lawsuit, filed in Franklin County Circuit Court, Hampton claims that Bevin illegally dismissed Steve Knipper and Adrienne Southworth.
She is seeking a court order to restore both staffers to their previous positions. A hearing is scheduled 10 a.m. on Aug. 19.
Bevin's communications director, Elizabeth Kuhn issued a statement criticizing the lawsuit as premature.
“The matter is currently before the personnel board, and it is inappropriate for a lawsuit to be filed before the board issues its decision," the statement reads. "We will move for immediate dismissal of the complaint.”
The firing caused an intraparty scuffle in Kentucky's GOP. In May, Hampton released a tweet from her official account asking the public to pray for her as she battled "dark forces."
“I am perplexed by the vacuous decision to deprive an active, productive Lieutenant Governor of her staff,” Hampton wrote. “But after watching politics for over 45 years, I am not surprised by the false allegations and character attacks which have ensued.”
The suit names Bevin and the state Personnel Cabinet as defendants.
"The Lieutenant Governor has the right to hire and fire her own staff. Despite this, Lieutenant Governor Hampton's staff were fired without her permission by someone in the Governor's Office. I do not know whether the Governor authorized the firings or was aware of the firings before they occurred. We expect that the Franklin Circuit Court will agree with the Lieutenant Governor and that she will soon have her staff back for the remainder of her term of office," said a statement from Joshua Harp, of Baughman Harp, PLLC, representing Hampton in the suit.
State attorney general and Bevin's opponent in the upcoming gubernatorial election, Andy Beshear, recently issued a ruling that only Hampton has the authority to hire and fire employees within her office.