Judge says Bevin can't remove pension chairman

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP/WKYT) - A state judge says Republican Gov. Matt Bevin can't remove the chairman of the Kentucky Retirement Systems board of trustees for now but can rewrite the rules for the board and its members.

Franklin County Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled Monday that Bevin was wrong to remove Thomas Elliott as the board chairman and to threaten him with arrest if he participated in meetings.

However, Shepherd ruled Bevin's order abolishing the board of trustees and replacing it with a board of directors didn't cause "irreparable harm." Shepherd said he would allow the new board to stand, except that Elliot couldn't be removed from it.

Shepherd's order is temporary until he issues a final ruling in the case, which could take several more months. Both sides could appeal.

In a statement Monday night, Governor Bevin's office said: "We are pleased the court has recognized Gov. Matt Bevin's authority to reorganize the KRS board under KRS 12.028. The new transparency provisions and board members with substantial investment experience are critical to turning around the nation's worst funded pension plan. While we disagree with the court's decision to allow Mr. Elliott to serve on the board to which he was never appointed, we are confident the court of appeals will reaffirm that Mr. Elliot is not a member of the new KRS board. Under Tommy Elliott's chairmanship the KRS had an abysmal investment track record and operated under a shroud of secrecy. Gov. Bevin will continue fighting to protect the pensions of state workers and bring transparency to state government. Attorney General Andy Beshear should drop his politically-motivated lawsuits and stop his efforts to fight transparency and protect the status quo. Our state workers and retirees deserve better."

In a statement, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear said, "While our request for a temporary injunction was not granted, Judge Shepherd in his ruling today recognized the important and legitimate questions my office has raised about the governor’s authority to re-organize the KRS board. Our goal is to quickly move this case to a final decision at the trial court level and ultimately to the Supreme Court of Kentucky.”

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