CIO Charles Grindle (left) speaking on a panel at AT&T annual business summit in September 2017 | Screenshot from YouTube video

A bill sponsored by a Republican leader in the state House to drastically cut the $375,000 annual salary of the Bevin administration’s chief information officer passed out of committee unanimously on Tuesday.

House Bill 499 of Republican Floor Leader Bam Carney would cap the annual salary of the state’s technology chief to that of the highest salary for this position among the seven states contiguous to Kentucky, which would be $200,112 in Tennessee.

At the request of Gov. Matt Bevin, the Kentucky General Assembly voted in last year’s session to lift the cap on the $160,000 salary of the newly appointed Chief Information Officer Charles Grindle, but many were shocked to learn later that summer that the governor gave Grindle a $215,000 raise — making his $375,000 salary nearly double that of the second-highest paid CIO of all states.

That raise garnered more attention by subsequent Courier Journal and Insider Louisville reporting that Bevin and Grindle were longtime friends and business associates, as Grindle served with him in the Army and did website work with the governor’s past businesses and political campaigns.

Carney first told Insider Louisville on Friday that HB 499 was nothing personal against the governor or Grindle, but reflected the belief of himself and other legislators that the $215,000 raise was unreasonably high.

State Rep. John ‘Bam’ Carney

Speaking to the House Committee on Appropriations and Revenue on Tuesday, Carney referred to HB 499 as “clean up legislation” from the bill they passed in the last session to lift the cap on Grindle’s salary.

“I understand to get the best you have to pay for that,” said Carney, who noted that other salary increases approved for top cabinet officials were not so excessive. “I’ve heard from a lot of taxpayers and I think a lot of us have, and that’s why we’re here today.”

Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, briefly praised the bill, saying that the state legislature “can show a tempering of extremes on salaries,” as many state workers have gone years without a raise.

Carney added that the salary adjustment for Grindle would go into effect for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

After the bill passed, it was placed on the consent calendar of the House, where it could be passed quickly on a voice vote with other unanimously passed bills without any further debate.

Reached by phone, Grindle told Insider Louisville Tuesday morning that he had no comment on the bill, referring inquiries to Pamela Trautner, the spokeswoman for the Finance and Administration Cabinet.

Trautner and representatives for Bevin have not yet responded to emailed questions from Insider asking about the bill and whether or not Grindle would remain in the position if HB 499 was passed and his salary was cut by roughly 47 percent.

Bevin has repeatedly dismissed criticism of Grindle’s raise, asserting that his $375,000 salary was “a steal” for the state as someone with his resume could make well over $1 million in the private sector. The governor also said 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 who could match his qualifications for the job.

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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]