Kentucky Retirement Systems trustee Neil Ramsey was elected to his sixth term as a member of the Anchorage City Council last week, but a legal opinion from the state attorney general in 2013 appears to call into question whether these two positions are incompatible under the state constitution and necessitate Ramsey resigning from one.
Ramsey — who founded Ramsey Financial Inc., the parent company of the Ramsey Quantitative Systems hedge fund investment firm — was appointed to the board of KRS in June 2016 by Gov. Matt Bevin, within the same executive order that abolished the previous board and created a new one with four additional members, one of which was Ramsey. He currently serves as the chair of the KRS board’s investment committee, which approves how the pension system’s $12.3 billion in assets are invested.
However, an opinion issued by former Attorney General Jack Conway on Sept. 19, 2013, stated that KRS trustee Betty Pendergrass was not allowed to also serve in her new position with Louisville Metro Government as an accounting manager, which led to her resignation from the KRS board four days later.
Noting past opinions by previous attorneys general that a KRS trustee is a state officer and a local government employee is a county officer, Conway cited Section 165 of the state constitution, which states that “no person shall, at the same time, be a State officer … and an officer of any county, city, town or other municipality, or an employee thereof.”
Asked if he was aware of the legal opinion related to Pendergrass, Ramsey told Insider in an email that he was not, though he had just read the copy we provided to him.
While stating that this opinion related to a KRS trustee who “was a paid employee of a government that the AG deemed to be a county,” Ramsey added he is “asking KRS counsel if my position as an unpaid member of the Council of a small city is incompatible with my service to the Commonwealth.”
KRS spokesman Shawn Sparks told Insider that Ramsey is still on its board of trustees, and though his term officially ended in June, “he has agreed to continue serving until he is either appointed again or the governor appoints someone else.” As for the 2013 legal opinion and whether it means that Ramsey cannot continue to serve in both positions, Sparks stated that KRS attorneys are now reviewing it, “but I don’t have an official statement or any other information at this time.”
Conway’s 2013 legal opinion cited one issued in 2000 by Attorney General Ben Chandler that a KRS trustee is a state officer, as well as a 2004 opinion issued by Attorney General Greg Stumbo, who ruled that an elected member of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council was a county officer, and therefore could not lawfully serve at the same time as a state officer with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
Stumbo’s opinion cited KRS 61.080(1) on incompatible offices, which repeats the same prohibition in Section 165 of the constitution. This statute goes on to specify that this includes a “mayor and member of council in cities of the fourth class,” which is what Anchorage was classified before it was designated a “home rule” city in 2015.
As Conway mentioned in his 2013 opinion, the statute related to Kentucky Retirement Systems — KRS 61.645(6)(a) — does state that membership on the KRS board shall not be incompatible with any other office, “unless a constitutional incompatibility exists,” which he found to be the case with Pendergrass.
Pendergrass, who was elected as one of three members representing the County Employees Retirement System on the KRS board before her 2013 resignation, is now back in that same position, having been elected once again in 2017. Her biography on the KRS website states that she is now retired from employment with local governments, instead serving as a private consultant to such agencies.
Ramsey still serves as the CEO and CIO of Ramsey Quantitative Systems Inc., whose GAA Systematic Global Macro Fund was recently named one of the top 100 hedge funds by Barron’s.
Ramsey came under scrutiny when the Courier Journal’s Tom Loftus discovered that Ramsey had sold an Anchorage mansion to Gov. Bevin in March 2017 for a price that is now half of what it is valued by Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator Tony Lindauer.
A spokesman for Attorney General Andy Beshear told Insider that the office could not comment on the legality of Ramsey holding these two positions at the same time unless a citizen made a formal request for a legal opinion to their office.
This story has been updated with an additional statement from KRS spokesman Sparks.