Louisville Courier Journal
Published 7:04 PM EST Nov 7, 2019
Gov. Matt Bevin complained bitterly in a deposition last month that scrutiny over the value of his 150-year-old Anchorage mansion is "unethical," "immoral" and the product of partisan politics.
"There should not be a citizen of Kentucky that ever has government weaponized against them the way the Jefferson County PVA has been weaponized against my family. Ever," Bevin said in a sworn statement Oct. 13 before the Kentucky Claims Commission.
"This whole thing was an absolute setup from day one. It’s just 100% political, and I think Zippy the monkey could tell you that."
The deposition of Bevin, who was defeated Tuesday by Attorney General Andy Beshear, is the latest twist in a three-year conflict over the property tax value of Bevin's fully restored mansion and the 10 acres on which it sits.
Bevin says the property is worth $1.39 million. The Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator says it is worth at least $2.9 million.
A Jefferson County property tax appeals board valued it at $2 million, and both sides have appealed to the Kentucky Claims Commission, which hasn’t issued a ruling. The valuation can be appealed to Jefferson Circuit Court.
From August: Board keeps value of Bevin’s Anchorage mansion at $2 million
The transaction raised questions because Bevin appeared to have received a discount of more than $1 million over the valuation set by the PVA.
Responding last month to questions posed by his lawyer, Mark Sommer, Bevin charged that the PVA, other Democrats and the media acted "with the absolute intent of making my life and that of my family as miserable as possible."
He said drones and helicopters have flown over the property, scaring his nine children, and that his wife, Glenna, has said she feels "repeatedly violated by the government."
Bevin accused the property valuation office of conspiring with the attorney general’s office. He also accused Beshear of asking federal agents to investigate, which Bevin called “political tripe.”
Bevin bought the property in March 2017 for $1.6 million from Neil Ramsey, the owner of a financial investment company and a major donor to Bevin political causes.
Bevin appointed Ramsey to the board of the Kentucky Retirement Systems, and he resigned two years later.
Bevin said he paid Ramsey the $1.6 million asking price, though the house and land were valued at $1.39 million, because “I figured it would probably be topical and it would give people fodder.”
He said if he’d known of problems with the house that he discovered later, “I would have quibbled.”
He testified that the basement has routinely flooded, causing “fungal growth,” including toxic black mold, and that 150-year-old bricks made on the site are crumbling, causing foundation problems.
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He said he will probably have to spend “six figures” on improvements.
He said the PVA’s challenges to the original assessment were “immoral” and “unethical” and may have been “criminal.”
PVA Colleen Younger, who took office in December 2018, succeeding Tony Lindauer, said: “We are charged under the constitution with assessing property at full cash value, and that is what we did for this taxpayer, like all taxpayers.”
Bevin also accused Common Cause Kentucky, a nonpartisan public interest group, of filing a complaint about the valuation only after Beshear’s office gave the nonprofit money that his former chief deputy Tim Longmeyer, who was convicted in a kickback scheme, had donated to Beshear’s 2015 campaign fund.
“Then, magically, Common Cause decided to open an investigation into my home,” Bevin said in the deposition. “Just, I’m sure, a sheer coincidence.”
David Vance, a spokesman for Common Cause, said it received checks for $14,302 but decided not to deposit them to avoid a potential conflict of interest.
Richard Beliles, who heads Common Cause’s Kentucky chapter, said the proposed donation had nothing to do with his decision to file a complaint about Bevin’s house with the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.
Bevin and his wife lived in Cherokee Gardens for 18 years, but he said they were forced to move after his 2015 election because the home was close to the street and people were throwing things at the house, knocking on the door and leaving notes on his windshield.
Republican lawmakers: Bevin can't turn election dispute into 'fishing expedition'
Andrew Wolfson: 502-582-7189; [email protected]; Twitter: @adwolfson. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/andreww.