October 22, 2020 Blog, Press Release

State Treasurer Allison Ball’s Failures as Kentucky’s “Watchdog”

State Treasurer Allison Ball is in her second term but until recently never expressed concern as the “Watchdog” for Kentucky taxpayers. In fact, she didn’t think it was her job.

Despite Matt Bevin’s well established record of using the state plane for political purposes and hiring close friends at exorbitant salaries, not once during the former administration did Treasurer Ball ever raise an eyebrow, let alone “investigate” as the taxpayer “watchdog.” Ball has a history of turning a blind eye to wasteful spending and serious conflicts of interest that benefited her own family.

Now, two weeks before Election Day, Allison Ball claims to be looking out for Kentuckians as the taxpayer “watchdog.” But her record reveals what today’s appearance before the interim judiciary committee is really about: partisan politics at its worst.

This memo is intended to provide the proper context in which to view her appearance before the committee.

Failed to investigate high salaries to Bevin’s friends during his administration

Matt Bevin made a habit of hiring his friends to high level positions in his administration. It includes his friend and campaign supporter Vivek Sarin at a $250,000 salary, his friend Charles Grindle at a $375,000 salary (the highest for his position in the U.S.), Ball’s husband at a $110,000 salary and “adoption czar” Dan Dumas, who was hired under a $240,000 contract that he quickly left and was given a $60,000 bonus as he left the job.

In all, 34 people in Bevin’s administration made more than his own $163,922 salary. At the time, the numbers shocked even Republican members of the state legislature.

Ball never once spoke up at this abuse of taxpayer money or questioned the salaries. Was it because her husband was a beneficiary of Bevin’s scheme to pay his friends high salaries?

Allison Ball Failed to investigate Governor Bevin’s flagrant use of the state plane for campaign purposes. 

For four years, Matt Bevin used the state aircraft as his own personal travel service. In his first two years as governor, Bevin used a state plane for 67 trips to 29 states in 2 years, according to the Herald-Leader. The trips cost taxpayers $377,404.50 in 2016 and 2017. Many of the trips were for political or personal reasons.

The trips continued all the way up to when voters showed Bevin the door and elected Andy Beshear instead. Each time Bevin used a state aircraft it cost taxpayers at least $925 an hour.

Not once did Ball speak up about Bevin’s misuse of the state planes and his lack of transparency in using the aircraft. In fact, she said it wasn’t her job to do so when pushed on the issue last year. 

Failed to investigate details around Braidy

Bevin helped secure $15 million of taxpayer investment on a secret project with no transparency. That project turned out to be Braidy Industries, which has been mired in delays, shady business dealings and recently fired its founder and CEO. Despite every delay and new revelation about the Braidy boondoggle, Ball never spoke up to defend taxpayer investment in the project.

She also remained quiet when taxpayer money was given to Enerblu, another project that promised jobs that never materialized. During an appearance on KET (1 hour, 7 minute, 30 second mark) last year, when pressed about not speaking up about the misuse of taxpayer money, Ball said it was important that “you stay in your lane.”

Once again, Ball’s newfound desire to be a taxpayer “watchdog” comes after she let the fox raid the henhouse for four years.

In 2019, Ball said it’s “illegal” and not her job to investigate use of taxpayer money

As Ball was running for re-election in 2019, she repeatedly said it was the job of the auditor, not the state treasurer, to investigate misuse of taxpayer money. Now, Ball has changed her mind just weeks before an election in a clearly partisan ploy.

In fact, Ball told the Herald-Leader “the state auditor is designated by the Kentucky Constitution to check spending by agencies of the state.” Not the treasurer.

When pushed to call out Bevin’s misuse of funds, Ball said doing so would make her an “activist.” Ball said it’s important for people to understand the role of the treasurer: “this job doesn’t say I don’t like where that’s going and I’m going to put a stop to it.”

It appears that Ball has forgotten her own role and forgotten to stay in her lane.

Conflict of Interest: Ball’s Husband took high paying jobs in Bevin administration

Ball’s husband, Asa James Swan, was hired in 2016 as chief of staff in the Transportation Cabinet at a $110,000 salary despite having no background in construction, engineering or other areas relevant to transportation. In fact, it appears his only qualification was being Allison Ball’s husband.

And in 2019, Swan was “promoted” by Bevin into a new position, “Chief Leadership Officer”. As a story in the Epoch Times notes, it is a position “rarely heard of in the public sector.” It never previously existed before in Kentucky state government and doesn’t exist now.

It appears Swan was paid six figures to go around the state and give speeches about “leadership.” Swan’s new position came despite not having the qualifications and is a previously unreported example of Bevin’s frequent policy of hiring friends to high salaries in his administration.

When KSP was sent to intimidate at a meeting of the Kentucky Retirement Systems, Ball said nothing

In May 2016, former governor Matt Bevin sent Kentucky State Police to a board meeting of the Kentucky Retirement Systems. Bevin sent police to the meeting in order to intimidate a board member into not showing up because Bevin did not like the board member. At the time, an advocacy group for retirees called Bevin’s actions a “ruthless and reckless abuse of executive power.”

Treasurer Ball remained silent about this use of state police to intimidate a KRS board trustee.