Ethics Questions About State Lobbyists Remain Unanswered

by Tony McVeigh on May 9, 2011

The question of whether a registered lobbyist can serve on Kentucky’s State Board of Elections remains unresolved.

Stephen Huffman is a registered lobbyist for HCM Governmental Relations in Lexington.  Last year, he was appointed by Gov. Steve Beshear to the State Board of Elections.  Executive Branch Ethics Commission Director John Steffen says the appointment creates a conflict of interest, because Huffman works for an entity that lobbies the executive branch, including the governor

“We have addressed those type of conflicts by basically saying we can’t tell you want to do in your private capacity, but we can say you’re going to have to recuse so much in your official capacity,” says Steffen “that your service is basically rendered meaningless on the board.”

But the ethics commission voted to defer any action on the matter, because no one has publicly complained about Huffman’s service on the Board of Elections.

The ethics questions raised about the presence of a registered lobbyist on Kentucky’s State Board of Elections won’t be resolved.  The Executive Branch Ethics Commission deferred action on the matter, because no one has filed a public complaint about Steven Huffman’s service on the elections board.  After the vote, member David Denton admitted the ethics commission basically punted.

“I think we have just kicked the can down the road, but nonetheless,” Denton says “at least we can be addressing a concern that comes from someone that we’re looking over, as opposed to just putting it out ourselves.”

Ethics Commission Director John Steffen had raised the conflict of interest issue because Steven Huffman works for H-C-M Governmental Relations in Lexington, which lobbies the executive branch of government, including the governor who appointed Huffman.

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