Northern Kentucky Attorney Steve Megerle filed an ethics complaint against Attorney General Daniel Cameron over an alleged conflict of interest involving a legal challenge over slot-style “gray machines” on Wednesday.
Email records from the attorney general’s office show Cameron recused himself from the case on March 31.
“I had someone approach me with the information, and they were uncomfortable filing the complaint themselves or having me file it on their behalf because of the fact that it was alleging an ethical complaint against the attorney general,” Megerle said, noting that he could not share the details of the “someone.”
“After looking into the details of the donations, it became evident that the attorney general should not only have recused himself, he should have also recused his entire office,” Megerle said.
The complaint stems from a political action committee, Bluegrass Freedom Action, that’s supporting Cameron and received $100,000 in donations from Pace-o-Matic — a “gray machines” company — and its executives, with an additional $33,600 going to Cameron’s campaign directly.
The Georgia-based company filed suit against the commonwealth over a ban on “gray machines” passed by the legislature in the 2023 legislative session. The attorney general’s office defends cases filed against state law in court.
“To accuse Attorney General Cameron or the Office of the Attorney General of any impropriety, in this case, is wholly without basis and patently untrue,” Cameron’s office said in a statement.
However, attorneys from his office will be defending the case.
“While General Cameron has personally recused himself from taking any action in this case and did so before any filing was made by the Office, experienced attorneys in the Office of the Attorney General are defending the constitutionality of the legislation challenged by the plaintiffs and will continue to do so until the case is won and the challenge is defeated,” the statement said.
On March 29, Cameron’s office requested to move the case to another circuit court. This is made possible by a new Kentucky law that tasks the clerk of the Kentucky Supreme Court to choose a new, random court for the case.
Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd heard oral arguments in early April to move the case. Shepherd requested the state Supreme Court to weigh in on whether the new law is constitutional, which means it is in limbo whether or not the court will consider Cameron’s request to move the case out of Franklin Circuit.
Before the hearing in early April, Cameron sent an email to Deputy Attorney General Victor Maddox and Chief of Staff Carmine Iaccarino stating his recusal from the case.
“Out of an abundance of caution, I’m recusing from any decision making re the above referenced case, with following case number: 2023-CI-00282, Franklin Circuit Circuit [Sic] Court,” Cameron wrote.
Megerle said in his complaint that “upon becoming aware of the intent of Pace-o-Matic’s political contributions,” General Cameron should have sought an advisory opinion from the Ethics Commission on the next steps.
“If there is an appearance of a conflict, complete recusal to protect the integrity of the office and the attorney general himself is the only proper course of action,” Megerle said.
Megerle is supporting Cameron’s opponent Kelly Craft in the race. Craft and Cameron are considered the frontrunners, with a poll from Emerson College showing Cameron leading Craft 30 to 24%.
Megerle said he is just a supporter of Craft’s campaign — he has made two $250 donations to Craft’s campaign and another two $250 donations to Commonwealth Policy PAC — which is running attack ads against Cameron.
“I do not have any official role with the Craft campaign,” Megerle said. “Nor am I employed by Craft campaign in any way, shape, or form.”
Craft’s campaign didn’t respond to request for comment at the time of publishing.