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Technology chief’s huge pay raise doesn’t come up in hearing

November 15, 2018
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Charles Grindle, Kentucky's chief technology officer, talked Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Frankfort, Ky. about the changes he's made during his tenure overseeing the state's IT infrastructure. Gov. Matt Bevin has touted Grindle as saving taxpayers millions. "His plan for a new converged server and storage infrastructure will create an estimated $3 million in annual savings in Fiscal Year 2019," said Bevin in October. (Matt Stone /Courier Journal via AP)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s chief of information technology delved into changes he’s made to the office he oversees, but he wasn’t asked by state lawmakers on Thursday about the $215,000 salary increase he received this year from Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.

Chief Information Officer Charles Grindle later told reporters he didn’t know how his pay raise came about, and that he had no salary requirements when Bevin approached him about the job.

Grindle said he has known Bevin since they served together as Army officers years ago.

The Courier Journal revealed in stories earlier this year that Grindle’s salary jumped from $160,000 a year to $375,000 — more than double what the governor makes. Bevin has said taxpayers are getting “a steal” with the higher salary, pointing to Grindle’s experience. Grindle’s predecessor was making $139,244 when he left the job, the Louisville newspaper has reported.

During his appearance before a legislative panel, Grindle outlined staffing changes, debt reduction and cost savings since he took charge of the Commonwealth Office of Technology.

“We had some things we had to fix,” he said Thursday.

Grindle said that when he took the job last year, the office faced $17.9 million in debt.

The technology office has paid down $12 million of that debt in the past year and is on course to pay off remaining debt by the middle of next year, he told lawmakers.

Bevin’s administration said Thursday it inherited the technology office’s debt obligations. The debt has been reduced in part by renegotiating contracts, reducing contracted staff and consolidating infrastructure and enterprise services, it said.

Grindle also said his office transferred $10.8 million to the state’s General Fund.

Republican Rep. Diane St. Onge, who presided over the committee hearing, later praised Grindle’s job performance.

“I certainly think he did an excellent job with his testimony, and has certainly saved the commonwealth millions and millions of dollars,” she said in an interview.

St. Onge limited the panel’s opportunity to ask Grindle questions after his presentation, citing time constraints. One committee member asked Grindle how the technology office generates its funding, and St. Onge followed with a question about the office’s cybersecurity efforts. The panel then moved on to another issue.

St. Onge later said there was no effort to shield Grindle from questions about his salary.

“My committee people are open to ask anything,” she said.

After the hearing, Democratic Rep. Angie Hatton said at least one of her colleagues on the panel wanted to ask Grindle if he had saved the state enough money to justify his salary.

Grindle’s massive pay raise has drawn criticism from some lawmakers.

“It seems like in a time when the governor was coming to every single cabinet and demanding that they make extreme cuts, that surely we could have found someone competent at a rate that the commonwealth could actually afford,” Hatton said in an interview Thursday.

During a session with reporters after his committee appearance, Grindle was asked to respond to criticism about his salary. He replied: “I was brought here to do a job.”

“We’ve made very positive gains,” he added. “I’m doing what has been asked of me when I came to the commonwealth.”

Asked if he and Bevin have been friends since they were young Army officers together about 30 years ago, he said: “I’ve known the governor since that timeframe, OK. I think that’s easy to be said, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.”

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