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Pension Board Appointee Declines Offer, Former Chair Reduced To Spectator

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Associated Press
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A gubernatorial appointee has turned down the offer to serve on the state’s pension board. 

Gov. Matt Bevin’s recent appointment of Madisonville dermatologist William Smith to the Kentucky Retirement Systems board appeared poised to spark another round of wrangling with Attorney General Andy Beshear, but the nominee respectfully declined the position in a letter to the governor Tuesday.

Bevin’s dismissal of board chairman Thomas Elliott in April and later move to install Smith did not sit well with Beshear, who has challenged the governor's actions regularly since assuming office. Asked by the systems' executive director William Thielen for an opinion on the nomination, the Democrat and son of former Gov. Steve Beshear found that Smith lacked a key qualification for the job.

"My analysis was based on his past his history and experience in finance," the attorney general said. "He did not have the necessary experience to sit in that board position."

In a statement Bevin spokesperson Amanda Stamper disagreed, reiterating the administration’s belief that Smith met all requirements to serve and pointing to Kentucky Supreme Court precedent to bolster the governor's case. She characterized the opinion as a politically motivated move hindering the governor's attempts to bring more accountability to the system.

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Credit Associated Press
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Ousted Chairman Kept Mum At Meeting

Meanwhile, Kentucky's Republican governor reportedly used state police officers to prevent the ousted chairman of the retirement system board from participating in a meeting.

Seeking a "fresh start," Bevin removed chairman Thomas Elliott from the board by executive order last month, but Elliott had refused to vacate his seat - saying Bevin could not remove him before his term expires.

Elliott attended Thursday's board meeting, but sat in the audience while state police officers stood nearby. Elliot reported the governor's office told him he would be arrested and charged with disrupting a public meeting if he participated.

In an non-binding opinion Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General Matt James said Bevin overreached in dismissing the former chair from the board. James’ boss, Andy Beshear, echoed those remarks Thursday, adding that the board of trustees was meant to operate independently.

"If the governor can replace anyone at any time for any reason, he effectively controls every decision made by that KRS board and entity and that's not what the law is intended to allow," Beshear told WUKY.

Stamper said Elliot was not threatened with arrest. She said he was reminded he is not a board member and would be disrupting the meeting if he tried to participate, which is a misdemeanor under state law.

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