Kentucky ethics commission charges former secretary of state

Published 5:22 am Saturday, November 20, 2021

A Kentucky ethics commission on Thursday charged Alison Lundergan Grimes with improperly using her office for personal and political purposes when she served as secretary of state, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

The Executive Branch Ethics Commission sent Grimes an initiating order on Thursday alleging two violations of the state ethics code. The first count accuses Grimes of directing subordinates to download information from Kentucky’s voter registration system without going through the proper channels for a personal, private purpose. The second count claims that Grimes improperly used her position to benefit Democratic candidates ahead of 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,” the order reads. “The lists were created using the Voter Registration System and were provided to the candidates at no cost in a format that is not provided by law.”

Grimes, once a rising star in the state Democratic party, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Katie Gabhart, the ethics commission’s executive director, explained the initiating order as the first public document issued to open a case.

Grimes’ former assistant, Erica Galyon, was also sent an initiating order on Thursday. The commission alleged that Galyon improperly withheld records from the news media in 2018-2019. Galyon had given the records to Grimes’ personal legal counsel but altered them before giving them to the media, according to the order. A working phone number for Gaylon was not available in an online directory.

Grimes and Galyon have 20 days to respond once served with the documents. After that, the matter goes to an administrative hearing officer, who will hear the merits of the case and issue a decision. The pair have the right to subpoena witnesses and to appeal any final commission order in Franklin Circuit Court. They face up to $5,000 in fines and public reprimand.

In early 2019, the Herald-Leader and ProPublica published a series on Grimes’ conduct that first reported her improper use of the voter registration system. The series also documented how Grimes gained unprecedented authority over the State Board of Elections, pushing through a no-bid contract with a company owned by a political donor and delaying action on a mandate to clean up state voter rolls.

Grimes was twice elected secretary of state, first in 2011 then 2015. She left office in 2019 due to term limits, and her former office is now occupied by Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams.

By the end of this month, Grimes’ father Jerry Lundergan will report to federal prison after a jury convicted him and political consultant Dale Emmons in September 2019  of conspiring to illegally contribute more than $200,000 from one of Lundergan’s companies to Grimes’ 2014 U.S. Senate campaign. Grimes lost the race to Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell by more than 15 percentage points.