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Executive Branch Ethics Commission charges former Sec. of State Grimes with violations of ethics laws

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Kentucky’s Executive Branch Ethics Commission charged former Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Erica Galyon, her top deputy, with violations of Kentucky’s ethics laws last week, following an investigation.

Alison Lundergan Grimes

Grimes, who served two four-year terms after being first elected in 2011, faces two counts of ethics violations, according to the initiating order, which serves to initiate the administrative proceeding and as a formal complaint.

Count one accuses Grimes of, “Directing her subordinates to use state time and resources to download and store information from the Voter Registration System onto flash drives for a personal, private purpose without following the established processes of government to obtain the information.”

Count two alleges she used her position to direct her subordinates to use state time and resources to engage in political activities prior to the 2016 election.

“Grimes directed an independent contractor of her agency to create lists of newly registered Democratic voters and then directed a subordinate employee to email the lists to some Democratic candidates,” it states. “The lists were created from the Voter Registration System and were provided to the candidates at no cost in a format that is not provided by law.”

According to state law and regulations, candidates are required to pay for the voter lists.
After these allegations came to light in a series of stories by ProPublica and the Lexington Herald-Leader in 2019 while Grimes was in office, the General Assembly added restrictions to who can legally access the Voter Registration System.

In a separate initiating order, Galyon, while Assistant Secretary of State, is accused of directing staff of the State Board of Elections to provide documents to Grimes’ private legal counsel that were in an Open Records request, while denying those same documents to an Open Records request from a member of the media.

The Commission order states, “The request from the media was for the same documents that had been previously provided to Grimes’ legal counsel. In addition, the documents that were provided to the news media were altered by adding page numbers and watermarks, while Grimes’ personal counsel was not.”

Grimes and Galyon have 20 days to respond to the initiating order, after which a hearing officer, hired by the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, will render a decision to the Commission.

If the allegations are sustained, the two could face a fine of up to $5,000 and receive a public reprimand.  They could also appeal an adverse decision to Franklin Circuit Court.    

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