FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Lt. Governor Jenean Hampton has vowed to complete her term in office and have two employees fired by Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration reinstated.
Hampton said in a statement released by her office that she “will serve the remaining months of my term as I began it: joyful, faithful, humble.” She also said fired deputy chief Adrienne Southworth would work with her and will record her time manually until she is put back in the state’s personnel system.
Southworth was the second Hampton staff member removed following the firing of Chief of Staff Steven Knipper last month.
Blake Brickman, Bevin’s deputy chief of staff, told the Courier Journal on Saturday that he fired Southworth because she repeatedly demonstrated poor judgment. Hampton said Brickman “clearly overstepped his boundaries” with the decision.
“Every Kentuckian should be concerned that an unelected bureaucrat appears to have power over the office of the lieutenant governor, a constitutional officer duly elected by the people of the commonwealth of Kentucky,” she said in the statement.
Southward said she had been looking into the earlier dismissal of Knipper, who was fired after filing for secretary of state in the May Republican primary. The Bevin administration has said anyone who runs for elected office must leave their state government post.
Heather French Henry told reporters when she filed her papers for secretary of state in the Democratic primary that she was stepping down immediately as Deputy Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Military Affairs due to that policy.
Hampton unsuccessfully tried to have an executive order issued to reinstate Knipper, who finished third in the primary election for secretary of state in May. He is appealing his dismissal as Hampton's chief of staff to the Personnel Board.
“I am perplexed by the vacuous decision to deprive an active, productive lieutenant governor of her staff,” Hampton said. “But after watching politics for over 45 years, I am not surprised by the false allegations and character attacks which have ensued.”
When Southworth was fired, Hampton went to Twitter on May 31, asking for prayer as “I battle dark forces.”
In the tweet she said: “CALLING PRAYER WARRIORS: Yesterday, person(s) unknown initiated unauthorized personnel action ending employment of my talented, stellar Deputy Chief Adrienne Southworth, against my wishes,” tweeted Hampton. “Pray for me as I battle dark forces.”
Hampton, the first African-American woman ever elected to statewide office in Kentucky, was not retained on Bevin’s re-election slate. Instead, he selected State Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, as his running mate for a second term.
Bevin’s office has not responded to a request for comment on Hampton’s statement.
“Blake Brickman, Governor Matt Bevin's Chief of Staff, has admitted he is responsible for the unauthorized personnel action terminating employment of Adrienne Southworth, my Deputy Chief of Staff. Brickman has clearly overstepped his boundaries. Every Kentuckian should be concerned that an unelected bureaucrat appears to have power over the office of the Lieutenant Governor, a constitutional officer duly elected by the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. I am perplexed by the vacuous decision to deprive an active, productive Lieutenant Governor of her staff. But after watching politics for over 45 years, I am not surprised by the false allegations and character attacks which have ensued.
To date, pertinent parties in the Finance/Administration and Personnel cabinets have not responded to my requests to reinstate Ms. Southworth, provide details of the termination order, and supply the forms and procedures necessary to hire. In doing so, they have denied me the privilege every other constitutional officer possesses – control of my own team.
Furthermore, Ms. Southworth's personnel case, and that of my Chief of Staff Steve Knipper, were handled poorly according to standard Human Resource practices. Unlike the private sector where direct supervisors are involved in personnel actions, I was not consulted in either action.
One reason I hired Ms. Southworth as my Deputy Chief of Staff is her innate ability to quickly read and understand bills. She actually enjoys the legislative process and was my eyes and ears in that arena. As my proxy on the Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council, a working group convened to improve Kentucky's criminal justice system, Ms. Southworth met with legislators and other stakeholders to research proposed reform bills and help determine their scope and viability. Although we both asked several questions on this complex issue, questions do not imply endorsement or advocation.
My office has also helped several constituents navigate the labyrinth of state government, another area where Adrienne excels. Kentuckians have turned to my office for assistance because we have a reputation for offering a helping hand and listening ear. Assistance does not imply endorsement or advocation.
I chose to be an active, engaged Lieutenant Governor despite few duties required. For the entirety of my term I focused on helping and inspiring Kentucky's youth. The Lt. Governor's Entrepreneurship Challenge I started has awarded almost $250,000 in scholarships. The Lt. Governor's STEM Challenge introduces middle school girls to professional women who work in science, technology, engineering and math careers. I inspired tens of thousands of Kentucky kids with my personal story of rising from poverty, visiting almost 200 schools and institutions. I started a self-directed literacy program. And instead of easing up in this final year of my term, I am currently tackling the heartbreaking issue of youth suicide.
My talented team played key roles on all these projects and more, making it possible for me to be the responsive Lieutenant Governor Kentucky deserves. We came to Frankfort to be public servants, not partisan hacks, and our accomplishments speak for themselves.
I will serve the remaining months of my term as I began it: joyful, faithful, humble. Ms. Southworth will continue to assist me, tracking her time manually until she is back in the personnel system. I am pursuing action to reinstate my staff soon.
Special thanks to the many Prayer Warriors praying on my behalf. Psalm 28:7 ‘The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped.’”
Jenean M. Hampton
Commonwealth of Kentucky