Mere weeks prior to Beshear announcing the sweeping business closures, the governor quietly fired Office of Unemployment Insurance Director Muncie McNamara “without cause” after just four months, leaving tens of thousands of Kentuckians in the lurch, many of whom are still awaiting unemployment benefits today. Why? According to new investigative reporting, Beshear was eager to reward a politically connected donor with a plum position.
According to the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting:
McNamara had been on the job only four months. The 38-year-old lawyer from Nelson County had no experience with unemployment systems or state government before taking the job. But what he did have was connections. He volunteered for and donated to Gov. Andy Beshear’s campaign last year. His wife, a recent chair of the Nelson County Democratic Party, considers Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman “a good friend,” according to an interview she gave to the Kentucky Standard. Coleman called McNamara to offer him the job personally, he said. He was paid $15,000 more than his predecessor, a career unemployment official who the cabinet kept on staff as a special assistant.
Kentucky was unable to timely fulfill the more than 113,000 unemployment claims a week made in March and failed to report a major data breach as required by law. Attorney General Daniel Cameron slammed Beshear for “increase[ing] the risk of potential identity theft and further compromise[ing] the personal and financial information of thousands of Kentuckians.”
“Governor Beshear’s decision to reward a campaign donor with a position he was clearly unqualified for backfired with disastrous consequences for thousands of Kentucky families,” said RGA Communications Director Amelia Chassé Alcivar. “Amid a global pandemic, Kentuckians who found themselves unemployed through no fault of their own are still struggling to make ends meet thanks to Governor Beshear’s decision to put his political crony first and the people of Kentucky last.”