(EDITOR’S NOTE, 8/31/18, 5:12 PM ET: This article was updated to include a link to the “inviolable contract” in commonwealth law stating that Kentucky public employees’ retirement benefits will not be altered, amended, or repealed.)
Governor Matt Bevin (R-Kentucky) has a reputation of attacking public employees’ pay and benefits. So why did he just give one of his staffers a giant raise?
On Wednesday, local CBS affiliate WKYT reported that Gov. Bevin quietly gave a 134 percent raise to Commonwealth Office of Technology (COT) executive director Charles Grindle, increasing his salary by $215,000 annually. Grindle now makes $375,000/year, which is, according to WKYT, more than double what even Gov. Bevin makes.
The Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet, which oversees the COT, justified Grindle’s raise by saying that the cost savings to the agency made up for the significant pay increase.
However, the raise still isn’t a good look, given the timing. Grindle’s pay increase came after a budget plan was passed that didn’t grant any additional salary bumps to any teachers or state government employees. Matt Bevin also appears hypocritical in improving the raise, as he is famous across the commonwealth for attacking the salaries of public employees for being too high.
As the Louisville Courier-Journal reported in January, Gov. Bevin was aghast over the fact that approximately 600 public employees within the Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) system make at least $100,000/year. The employees making those salaries are mostly working full-time in administrative positions as principals, assistant principals, and in specialized medical fields like school counselors and school nurses.
The Courier-Journal also pointed out that a much larger percentage of Matt Bevin’s own appointees make six figures when compared to JCPS employees:
A quick Courier Journal analysis of government salaries found that 27 percent of state employees appointed by Bevin through mid-November were making $100,000 a year or more — that’s 75 employees of a total 278 appointed by Bevin. That’s compared with about 3.7 percent of all JCPS personnel in November.
And among Kentucky’s 77,387 paid workers, 4,297, or 5.6 percent, are paid at least $100,000 according to data Courier Journal gathered from the commonwealth’s transparency website.
Earlier this year, Gov. Bevin nearly succeeded in gutting the pensions of Kentucky’s teachers and other public employees in violation of the “inviolable contract” that’s been in the commonwealth’s legal code for decades. The statute specifically states that public employee benefits will not be “subject to reduction or impairment by alteration, amendment, or repeal.” A judge eventually ruled that the bill Bevin signed was unconstitutional, as the lawmakers who passed it rammed it through both houses of the legislature without following proper order.
Matt Bevin recently announced he’ll be running for a second term in the 2019 gubernatorial election. He may end up facing Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear (D), who formally announced his bid for governor in early July. Other Democrats mulling a run against Bevin include state representatives Rocky Adkins and Attica Scott — who became the first black woman elected to the Kentucky General Assembly two years ago.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.