Gov. Bevin gave one state employee a big pay raise

Published 12:23 pm Friday, September 14, 2018

Gov. Matt Bevin recently defended a $215,000 raise for the state’s information technology chief by saying that Charles Grindle, a retired Army colonel, could make far more than his $375,000 state salary in the private sector.

“Frankly we’re underpaying him … relative to his value,” said Bevin.

Of course, that could be said of many public employees — Kentucky State Police, for example, whose starting pay is $37,886. Or teachers.

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There’s no salary increase for troopers and other state employees in the current two-year budget, though inflation is eating 3 percent of their earnings which have been stagnant for a decade. If Bevin gets his way, Kentucky’s future teachers would lose defined benefit pensions, though they don’t receive Social Security.

So much for paying people what they’re worth.

Grindle, whose resume is impressive, is president of Lone Star Graphics, a consulting firm in Pennsylvania that did some work for Bevin’s 2015 campaign for governor. Bevin’s campaign reported paying Grindle’s company a little under $10,000 for information technology services — though, clearly, the association produced a greater reward than that for Grindle.

Kentucky had no designated chief information officer for almost two years after Bevin became governor. Grindle’s hiring was announced in December 2017.

His raise took effect Aug. 1, making him Kentucky’s highest-paid state employee. He’s also the nation’s highest paid state chief information officer, according to a survey by the Council of State Governments. (Kentucky ranks 46th in median household income, but in CIO pay we’re No. 1.)

In response to questions from Courier Journal’s Tom Loftus, who broke the news of the $215,000 raise, the Finance and Administration Cabinet released a statement saying that savings realized under Grindle’s leadership already have more than paid for his raise, including “$2.9 million in cost reductions created by managing consulting contracts and video conferencing. His plan for a new converged server and storage infrastructure will create an estimated $3 million in annual savings beginning in fiscal year 2019.”

We asked the governor’s office about the relationship between Bevin’s campaign and Grindle’s company and received an email from Bevin’s campaign treasurer, Eva Smith, who said, “Chuck Grindle and Lone Star Graphics have no affiliation with ‘Matt Bevin for Kentucky.’” She did not respond to a follow-up question, though it should go without saying that Grindle’s company couldn’t work for Bevin’s campaign while Grindle is working for the state.

Grindle’s pay now exceeds that of Vivek Sarin, whom Bevin hired at $250,000 a year as an economic development specialist though his main qualification seemed to be his friendship and political support for Bevin. Bevin also hired a Baptist minister as his adoption “czar” on a $240,000 contract that Bevin ended early, requiring a $60,000 termination fee. Bevin’s new adoption advisers, a husband-wife team, will be paid $165,000 a year, drawn from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Bevin, who spent more than $4 million of his own fortune to become governor, has supported policies that will increase already gaping income inequality in the private sector. He’s doing the same in state government, even at the cost of workforce morale.

Lexington Herald-Leader