Bevin: Voicemail, road project unrelated

Published 12:53 pm Friday, September 2, 2016

Rep. Russ Meyer, D-Nicholasville, says Gov. Matt Bevin and the governor’s chief of staff, Blake Brickman, asked him to switch parties last December to try to take control of the state House of Representatives, which currently has 53 Democrats and 47 Republicans.

Meyer received a call on Dec. 14 from Brickman attempting to persuade him to switch parties to get things done in a “bipartisan manner.”

Meyer called Brickman the next day and told him that he was going to remain a Democrat and that he had worked for 14 years in a non-partisan way.

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On Dec. 17, Bevin left Meyer a voicemail from an unknown number.

“I have had some conversations since our last conversation, and I am a little disappointed with what I am hearing.” Bevin said in the voicemail. “I want you to understand where things are in my mind and the decisions I am going to make in the days, weeks and months ahead. I want you to be very aware of what the impact of those decisions will be in the relation to you, your seat and your district. Just so we have all of the cards on the table.”

Meyer said he is now releasing the voicemail because $625,000 was paid to the Allen Company in Lexington due to a delay in the Brannon Road Project.

Meyer said Tuesday he thinks the major road project in his district was postponed because he decided to remain a Democrat, according to the Herald Leader. The Bevin administration has denied that.

Meyer said the delay and incompleteness of the project is “insufficient government.”

The road project was an extension of East Brannon Road to Tates Creek Road in Jessamine County.

Meyer confirmed Wednesday a quote in the Ashland Daily Independent in an August story, which said Brickman told him he was going to make Meyer out to be, “An Obama-loving baby killer (who) picks (Democratic House Speak Greg Stumbo) over Bevin.”

Meyer said he is willing to stand up to the governor. Even if that means going against people in his own party.

“The governor believes a Republican majority in the state House will lead to more jobs and opportunities for Kentucky families in Rep. Meyer’s district and across Kentucky,” said Jessica Ditto, communications director for Bevin, in an email to the Jessamine Journal.

Rep. Meyer was worried about the governor supporting a Republican opponent against him this year and expressed an interest in changing parties because Jessamine County is now a Republican county and trending more so, Ditto said.

“The fact that Rep. Meyer would release a nine-month-old, polite and personal voicemail two months before an election is proof of his continued insecurity about keeping his seat,” said Ditto.

“As statesmen, we just need to come together and do the right thing for people of Kentucky and for the people in my district,” Meyer said. “It’s just as simple as that.”

Bevin’s office has not denied the allegations of Bevin trying to convert Meyer to a Republican. However Ditto said the voicemail has nothing to do with the Road Project.

Brickman released a statement to the Jessamine Journal concerning the road project allegations from Meyer.

“His uncorroborated allegation is completely untrue and absurd, especially considering the road project in question was put into the road plan not by him, but by Republican Senator Tom Buford,” Brickman said. “Meyer is a desperate, career politician that will say anything because he is afraid of losing to Rob Gullette.”

The project was previously approved by Gov. Steve Beshear before he left office. It was set to begin in 2015. The project has yet to start due to right-of-away and utility issues.

“The project was rushed through before the right-of-ways and utilities were complete,” said Ryan Watts, information officer for the Kentucky Transportaition Cabinet.

Now, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet must pay $625,000 to the Allen Company in Lexington due to the delay claim.

If the project does not proceed by May 1, 2017, the cabinet will have to pay another $850,000, Watts said.

As of Aug. 30, the moving of the utilties are incomplete. The project will begin when all the requiriments are in place, said Sen. Tom Buford in a statement released on Tuesday. Buford represents the 22nd District, which includees Jessamine County.

“It is unfortunate this has become a political issue. I know Gov. Bevin will continue to ensure the state provides a safe and reliable transportation system for this entire community,” Buford said. “This is a road project I placed into the Road Plan and continue to support. It will be completed as soon as property right-of-ways and utilities are properly secured.”