LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — A cabinet secretary in former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear's administration said Wednesday that the governor's chief of staff pressured him to award a lucrative state contract to a company that had helped him raise money.
But former personnel secretary Tim Longmeyer said he did not bow to the pressure because he was already being bribed by a lobbyist to keep the contract with another company.
Longmeyer's testimony came during the third day of a federal bribery trial of James Sullivan, who is accused of bribing Longmeyer. Longmeyer has pleaded guilty to bribery charges and is serving a 68-month federal prison sentence in Alabama. He returned to Lexington this week to testify against Sullivan, offering his first extended public comments about a federal bribery sting that has netted three guilty pleas and embarrassment for several Democratic officeholders.
Prosecutors say Sullivan represented Cannon Cochran Management Services Inc., a company that was paid about $1 million a year to administer Kentucky's workers' compensation claims.
The company paid Sullivan's consulting firm about $50,000 a year to help it keep that contract. In 2010, prosecutors said Sullivan was worried political pressure would cause the company to lose the contract to a competitor. Longmeyer testified he met with Sullivan, who offered to give him a "Christmas present."
"It was a euphemism for a bribe," Longmeyer said with a hoarse voice while wearing an orange prison uniform and shackles around his ankles. "He was asking me to make sure CCMSI got the contract."
Longmeyer said Sullivan later gave him an envelope with $5,000 in $100 bills.
CCMSI did get the contract. But another company, Underwriters Safety and Claims, protested.
Longmeyer testified Mike Haydon, Beshear's legislative affairs director and later chief of staff, called to ask about the contract.
"Mike Haydon said he was interested in this group because they had helped him out to raise some funds," Longmeyer said, without saying what those funds were for. "It was a mild way of saying he wanted Underwriters to win the contract."
Haydon died in 2012. Authorities have said there is no evidence the companies or elected officials knew what Longmeyer was doing.
Longmeyer testified he could have agreed with Underwriters' protest and given them the contract, but said he did not because of the money Sullivan had given him and because he thought CCMSI had done a good job.
Longmeyer said his relationship with Haydon suffered after that incident.
Prosecutors said Longmeyer and Sullivan continued their scheme when Longmeyer took a job as the deputy attorney general under Democrat Andy Beshear, who is Steve Beshear's son.
But Longmeyer got caught and started working for the FBI. He recorded a conversation with Sullivan, where he agreed to pay Longmeyer in return for helping some clients of his win contracts from the attorney general's office.
A spokesman in Andy Beshear's office said the attorney general has cooperated with the U.S. attorney and that the federal prosecutor has said the attorney general wasn't engaged in wrongdoing or aware of any.
"No outside lawyer contracts were awarded during that period whatsoever," spokesman Terry Sebastian said in an email Wednesday. "... Beshear even appointed a special prosecutor who secured a conviction on state charges."
Longmeyer said he used the money Sullivan gave him to pay personal bills and to donate to Democratic political candidates.
Sullivan's attorney, Thomas Hectus, was scheduled to cross-examine Longmeyer Wednesday afternoon. Hectus told the jury on Monday that Sullivan was innocent. He said Sullivan's payments to Longmeyer were as friends and there was never an agreement to influence the awarding of contracts. He noted Longmeyer is serving time for bribery related to another case involving the state's health insurance program. He said Longmeyer made up the allegations to get a lighter sentence on other bribery charges he is serving time for.