- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 2, 2016

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has approved a contract of up to $500,000 for an Indiana law firm to investigate his Democratic predecessor’s administration.

The two-year contract was awarded to the Indianapolis office of the law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister, according to media reports. The contract says the firm will investigate possible violations of state spending rules and possible coercion of state workers for campaign donations.

The contract states that the scope of the investigation may be expanded “to include additional alleged violations of the public trust.”

The Lexington Herald-Leader first reported the awarding of the contract.

In the spring, Bevin announced that his Finance and Administration Cabinet would oversee an investigation of what he called a “pay-to-play” method of conducting business during Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration. Beshear, who left office late last year after serving two terms, has said Bevin’s accusations “have absolutely no basis in truth.”

The Taft firm won a competitive process that included one other bidder, said Pamela Trautner, a spokeswoman for the state Finance and Administration Cabinet.

Under contract terms, the firm’s billing will be at a “blended” rate not to exceed $250 per hour. That rate, Bevin’s Finance and Administration Cabinet has acknowledged, is higher than the rate of $125 per hour for normal legal services contracts within the guidelines of the General Assembly’s Government Contract Review Committee, The Courier-Journal reported.

Trautner said the state negotiated a rate significantly lower than Taft’s normal rate.

The firm will work with the Finance and Administration Cabinet’s inspector general.

In a letter explaining the contract to the legislative committee, Finance and Administration Cabinet General Counsel Gwen Pinson wrote that the new inspector general’s office needed special expertise - a firm with extensive experience in “extremely complex and specialized” areas of law including “government procurement and contract law, campaign finance law, white collar crime, and other related areas.”

Since Bevin took office, the GOP governor and Beshear have argued over health care, voting rights and pensions.

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