AG Beshear: Kentucky lt. gov. can hire, fire own staff

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear's office is weighing in on the personnel spat between Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton and Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's administration.

Beshear, Bevin's Democratic opponent in the upcoming governor's race, issued an attorney general's opinion Thursday after a request from Hampton, who is a Republican.

Two of Hampton's staffers have been dismissed by Bevin's administration in recent months, and Hampton has argued that she should have control over her own staff. Bevin in January dropped Hampton as his running mate for reelection.

The AG's opinion says the lieutenant governor has the power to "appoint and terminate" her own staff. The opinion written by Assistant Attorney General Taylor Payne does not carry the force of law.

After Bevin's administration dismissed Hampton's deputy chief of staff in May, Hampton asked for prayers as she fights "dark forces."

That staffer, Adrienne Southworth, has asked the state's personnel board to reverse her dismissal and give her back pay and benefits.

Bevin's chief of staff, Blake Brickman, said in June that he authorized Southworth's firing, saying she repeatedly demonstrated poor judgment. Hampton called it an "unauthorized personnel action" and said Brickman "overstepped his boundaries."

Earlier in the year, Bevin's administration fired Hampton's chief of staff, Steve Knipper. He was dismissed for not adhering to an administration policy that requires state employees running for elective officer to resign. Knipper has an appeal before the state personnel board on Friday.

As Bevin's running mate in 2015, Hampton became a political trailblazer as the first black person elected to statewide office in Kentucky.