The decision by Governor Andy Beshear’s administration to award a $225,000 no-bid contract to remove the Jefferson Davis statue from the state Capitol rotunda will be investigated after state lawmakers alleged the contract went to a company with a family member who donated to the Governor’s election campaign.
According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Republican state lawmakers voted Tuesday to ask the attorney general to investigate the process, saying they weren’t questioning the decision to remove the statue itself but said they were concerned that Beshear’s administration had rewarded a political donor with the contract.
The 6-1 vote went along party lines with Democratic State Representative Charles Booker of Louisville the lone no vote. At his Tuesday media conference, Beshear said the complaint has no merit and called it “partisan politics at its worst.”
click to download audioBeshear says lawmakers need to focus on more important things in the time of a global pandemic.
click to download audioThe state Historic Properties Advisory Commission voted 11-1 on June 13 to remove the statue. The Courier-Journal said the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet signed a no-bid contract with American Industrial Contractors, with the company receiving $225,000 to remove the five-ton statue.
Beshear’s administration said opening the contract to bidding wasn’t necessary because of the specialized nature of the work.
Republicans said there was no rush to remove the statue and that the contract should have been open for bidding.
The Kentucky Registry of Election Finance shows the wife of the president of the company that removed the statue donated $750 to Beshear’s 2019 campaign for governor. According to the campaign donation tracking website followthemoney.org, Tom Bennington, the president of American Industrial Contractors who did the work, gave $2,700 to the campaign to re-elect Jim Gray as mayor of Lexington. Gray lost the election but was named state secretary of transportation by Beshear.
The contract for the work now moves to Attorney General Daniel Cameron and federal prosecutors for further investigation.
The vote came on the same day the Associated Press reported a security fence will be built around the Kentucky Governor’s Mansion in response to a spring demonstration where armed protesters gathered outside the home of Beshear.
A statement by Beshear spokeswoman Crystal Staley to the AP said the Kentucky State Police executive security requested a fence be built for the safety of the current and future first families
The project’s costs won’t be known until all bids are submitted later this month, Jill Midkiff, a spokeswoman for the state Finance and Administration Cabinet, told the AP.
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