Judge rules Bevin has ability to reorganize board of ailing pension system but not remove chair

After executive orders by Gov. Matt Bevin to reorganize the Kentucky Retirement System (KRS) Board of Trustees and remove the board’s chair were challenged in court, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phil Shepherd ruled Monday evening that Bevin could make changes to the board but not remove the chair.

In his ruling issued Monday evening, Judge Shepherd granted a temporary injunction keeping KRS Board Chair Tommy Elliott in his position until the end of his term while Shepherd also ruled in favor of Bevin’s executive order reorganizing the pension system board, according to a story from cn|2 Pure Politics.

The rulings come after Bevin issued an executive order in April seeking to remove Elliott from his position and another executive order in June to reorganize the KRS Board by adding new members and replacing Elliott as chair. Both of those executive orders were challenged in court by Attorney General Andy Beshear.

Shepherd’s rulings Monday evening mean that the four additional members added to the KRS Board by Bevin begin serving on the board but Elliott will still remain at the helm.

As reported by The Bottom Line, state police attended a meeting of the KRS Board in May with members of the Bevin administration and threatened the arrest of Elliott if he participated in the board meeting, according to KRS Executive Director Bill Thielen.

According to the story from cn|2 Pure Politics, Shepherd orders Bevin, “and all his agents, employees, and persons acting in concert with him are specifically enjoined from interfering with the right of Mr. Elliott to participate as a member of the governing board of the Kentucky Retirement Systems, and his membership and participation on the Investment Committee, pending a final judgement in this action.”

“While we disagree with the court’s decision to allow Mr. Elliott to serve on the board to which he was never appointed, we are confident the court of appeals will reaffirm that Mr. Elliot is not a member of the new KRS board,” Bevin’s office said in a statement Monday evening. “Gov. Bevin will continue fighting to protect the pensions of state workers and bring transparency to state government. Attorney General Andy Beshear should drop his politically-motivated lawsuits and stop his efforts to fight transparency and protect the status quo. Our state workers and retirees deserve better.”

Beshear also reacted to the ruling in a statement, stating that he will continue to fight what he sees as an overreach of power by Bevin.

“While our request for a temporary injunction was not granted, Judge Shepherd in his ruling today recognized the important and legitimate questions my office has raised about the governor’s authority to re-organize the KRS board,” Beshear said in a statement. “Our goal is to quickly move this case to a final decision at the trial court level and ultimately to the Supreme Court of Kentucky.”

The Kentucky Retirement System Board of Directors is set to hold a specially called meeting Wednesday to swear in new members and discuss the replacement of Thielen as executive director of the system as he is set to retire September 1 as head of KRS.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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