Charles Grindle

Republican House Floor Leader Bam Carney has filed a bill that would dramatically reduce the contentious $215,000 raise given last year to the state Chief Information Officer Charles Grindle, a longtime friend and business associate of Gov. Matt Bevin.

House Bill 499 filed by state Rep. Carney on Wednesday would mandate that the salary for the state’s chief information officer may not exceed the salary of the highest-paid chief information officer of the seven states contiguous to Kentucky.

According to Carney and a Courier Journal article last year, the highest CIO salary in a state contiguous to Kentucky is $200,112 in Tennessee. If House Bill 499 is passed, that could mean that Grindle’s $375,000 salary would be cut by $174,888, or nearly 47 percent.

Last year, the Kentucky General Assembly passed legislation at the behest of the governor to lift the cap on Grindle’s salary, which was $160,000 at the time. However, many legislators were shocked to discover last summer that Bevin had given Grindle a $215,000 raise, with his $375,000 salary approaching double that of the second-highest paid state CIO in the country.

Further reporting by the Courier Journal and Insider Louisville discovered that Bevin and Grindle were longtime friends and business associates, having served together in the Army before Grindle handled website work for Bevin’s businesses and political campaigns.

State Rep. John ‘Bam’ Carney

Bevin has dismissed criticism of the raise he awarded to Grindle, saying that Grindle’s $375,000 salary was “a steal” for the state and claiming that someone with his resume could make well over $1 million in the private sector. The governor added that the state did not conduct a search for the CIO position that had been vacant for 22 months before Grindle’s hire because there was no one else in the country with his qualifications.

Carney told Insider on Friday that he has not spoken to Bevin about the bill and “it is certainly not anything personal,” but that Grindle’s raise was excessive.

“I and a few other members who have communicated with me think that this particular case was probably just too high,” said Carney. “I’m not opposed to even going 10 percent above (Tennessee) to attract the best, but just be reasonable. That’s what I’m trying to accomplish.”

Carney noted that he has supported past legislation to lift the cap on salaries for executives in the Economic Development Cabinet in order to attract top talent, but he and other were caught off guard by the extent of Grindle’s raise.

“I don’t really feel deceived, I just think we all assumed it would be closer in line to (raises) in the past in Economic Development to about $250,000,” said Carney. “I think that would be more appropriate.”

Carney said that he believed his legislation had a legitimate chance to be passed out of the House.

Spokespersons for Bevin did not return inquiries from Insider about HB 499.

This story has been updated.

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]