Grimes denies allegations of gathering improper voter data

Calling the claims against her “politically motivated and spurious,” Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes denied that she ever improperly obtained voter data or that she took inappropriate action in a contract with a state vendor.

“Candidates for office in Kentucky have a number of available alternatives to obtain voter data, including purchasing it from the State Board of Elections or receiving it from political parties,” Bradford Queen, Grimes’ communications director, said in written statement Thursday. “As a result, in her capacity as a candidate, Secretary Grimes would have no reason to obtain voter data by other means.”

In a 17-page letter released to the press this week and sent to four of six members of the Board of Elections on Oct. 21, Matthew Selph, the recently-fired assistant to the director of the State Board of Elections, alleged Grimes’ office had ordered a staffer to collect data from the State Board of Elections voter registration system on a thumb drive.

Selph’s allegations were based on a conversation with a staff member from the Secretary of State’s office. Selph said he was told the staffer had been ordered to collect “All kinds of data, like during their elections, they would ask me to come over here and get data for them.”

Candidates and political parties are limited in how much data they are eligible to receive from the State Board of Elections Voter Registration System. There is information in the system, like unique voter registration numbers, that parties and candidates cannot access.

Selph said he brought his claims to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.

Grimes also denied allegations that there was anything improper about a contract awarded to a technology company called CyberScout.

“Mr. Selph’s allegations regarding the Commonwealth’s contract with CyberScout are in direct contradiction of the facts,” Queen wrote. “Minutes from the Feb. 21, 2017, State Board of Elections meeting reflect that the Board took appropriate action to engage with the vendor. Further, neither the Secretary of State’s Office nor the Board of Elections awards contracts; the Finance and Administration Cabinet approves all contracts into which the Commonwealth enters, and did so in this case.”

Grimes has received $2,000 in campaign donations from CyberScout chairman Adam Levin for her 2015 Secretary of State campaign and $5,200 in campaign donations from Levin for her 2014 Senate campaign.

Selph mentioned the Feb. 21 meeting with CyberScout in his letter and said the board voted to “continue to engage” with CyberScout, but he said the board did not vote to authorize a contract with the company.

He said after the meeting, he and Maryellen Allen, the former director of the State Board of Elections, researched the company and decided they did not want to pursue a contract.

Selph said at the end of the March meeting, the Secretary of State informed the Board of Elections that they had decided to go forward with a contract with CyberScout, against his and Allen’s wishes.

The contract was awarded in June for $150,000.

“During the CyberScout sequence of events, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very wrong with this contract,” Selph wrote in his letter to the board. “I asked many questions of many people and decided that I needed to go on the record with my concerns.”

Selph said he reported his questions to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission. As a policy, the ethics commission does not confirm or deny ongoing investigations.

Grimes did not address allegations that her staff members were improperly granted administrative access to the State Board of Elections voter registration system. In his letter, Selph said the access had resulted in a polling place being deleted from the system.

Grimes also reiterated that she did not vote on the firing of Selph and Allen. Grimes chairs the State Board of Elections, was a part of the closed discussion about the personnel matter and seconded the motion for their dismissal in the meeting.

“The majority vote of the Board of Elections to end the employment of Maryellen Allen and Matt Selph was bipartisan and did not include the vote of Secretary Grimes,” Queen wrote. “Out of respect for the employees involved, the Board elected to terminate these employees without cause. As a result, there is nothing more to share. The Board thanks Ms. Allen and Mr. Selph for their service.”