Judge rejects Gov. Bevin's request to remove Kentucky Retirement Systems board member
A judge says Thomas Elliott will remain on the board, but only as a non-voting member.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A judge rejected a request by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin to remove Thomas Elliott from the Kentucky Retirement Systems board, but that rejection still represents a partial victory for the governor.
Elliott will remain on the board, but only as a non-voting member. Additionally, Mark Lattis, who was appointed by Bevin via executive order to replace Elliott, will also remain on the board, but as a voting member.
The decision came down in an order Thursday morning.
Bevin had removed Elliott from the board earlier this year. Elliott sued, and last month Franklin County Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd temporarily blocked Bevin's order. But Elliott did not attend the board's next meeting. Bevin's attorney, Stephen Pitt, had said that skipping the meeting demonstrates Elliott's "lack of commitment."
Elliott's attorney had said he did not attend the meeting because the judge issued his order two days before the board's meeting and Elliott had already scheduled some work meetings. Last week, Shepherd called Elliott's reason for missing the meeting "wholly inadequate."
Defending his original decision to allow Elliott to remain on the board against Bevin's wishes, Judge Phillip said it all came down to a matter of authority:
The Court does not issue an injunction that blocks the Governor's exercise of his executive authority lightly. In this case, the Court determined that a very serious question existed as to the Governor's authority to terminate, without cause, the services of a Board member who had been duly appointed by a prior Governor to serve a term of years. By virtue of the Governor's subsequent order abolishing and re-creating the Board of the Kentucky Retirement Systems, a closely related question is presented as to whether the Governor can remove Board members who are appointed for a term of years by exercising reorganization power under KRS 12.028. These are vitally important questions concerning the structure of state government, the separation of powers, and the scope of the Governor's executive authority. The Court, in issuing its temporary injunction, found that those questions present serious legal issues that support the issuance of injunctive relief pending a final decision on the merits. The Court remains convinced that this finding is correct.
That said, Judge Phillip wrote that his decision to demote Elliott to non-voting status came down to Elliott's failure to attend the meeting -- and a hearing on the temporary injunction.
"Again, Mr. Elliott should have been aware of these meetings," the judge wrote. "Instead, he scheduled a business meeting for August 23, and chose not to attend the Board meeting on August 24, not because of advice of counsel, but because of incorrect and incomplete information he learned from the former executive director."
Below is a copy of the judge's decision:
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