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Bluegrass feud: Kentucky lieutenant governor cries foul over dismissal of staff

Jenean Hampton’s power struggle with Matt Bevin’s administration accelerates since she was dumped from his re-election ticket

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

FRANKFORT, Kentucky (CFP) — Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Jenean Hampton has fired off an angry letter demanding that Governor Matt Bevin‘s administration stop firing members of her staff, as the relationship between the state’s two top political leaders continues to deteriorate.

Lieutenant Governor Jenean Hampton

“In the future, you are not to execute any personnel action involving my staff unless you have my express, written permission,” Hampton said in a letter to Troy Robinson, the head of the governor’s Office of Administrative Services, which was obtained by the Lexington Herald-Leader.

On May 30, Robinson’s office, which oversees human resources for state executive officers, terminated Hampton’s deputy chief of staff, leaving her with just one staff member.

The lieutenant governor then took to Twitter to ask for prayers “as I battle dark forces.”

The firing marks that second time Hampton has seen one of her staff members fired without her assent.

In January, her chief of staff, Steve Knipper, was fired when he filed to run for secretary of state. She tried without success to rehire him by issuing her own executive order.

The reasons for the latest firing remain unclear; Bevin told reporters he was not aware of the staffer’s termination and did not know the reason for the firing.

The personnel dispute is the latest sign of a deteriorating relationship between Bevin and Hampton, who was vaulted to the No. 2 position in Kentucky politics after he selected her as his running mate in 2015.

Earlier this year, Bevin announced he was dumping Hampton — the first African American to serve in a statewide constitutional office — from his ticket in favor of State Senator Ralph Alvarado..

He offered no explanation for the switch other than to say he chose not to run with Hampton “because I chose to run with Ralph Alvarado.”

Hampton, 61, a former Air Force captain from Bowling Green, was a favorite of Tea Party groups, who had lobbied Bevin to keep her on his ticket.

Kentucky is one of 13 states where candidates for governor select a running mate, rather than electing lieutenant governors separately.

The duties of the lieutenant governor are limited to participation on several state boards and taking over in the event a governor cannot continue in office. The lieutenant governor does not preside of the State Senate, as is the case in 26 other states.

In her letter to Robinson, Hampton said she “did not advise or authorize you to terminate employment” of Adrienne Southworth, her deputy chief of staff.

“I was not consulted in this action, and I fail to understand how my staff can be terminated without discussing matters with me, their immediate supervisor,” she said. “Neither you nor anyone other than myself is positioned to determine if the services of my staffers are needed or not.”

Hampton demanded that Southworth be reinstated and that she be provided with the reasons behind her termination.

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