Attorney General says Kentucky Retirement System doesn't have reveal retirees' pension amounts under law

02/04/2013 07:12 PM

The Office of the Attorney General said the Kentucky Retirement System doesn’t have to provide to the public how much individual retired state, county and city employees receive in their pension checks.

Attorney General Jack Conway’s office denied an open records request appeal filed by Pure Politics, saying current statutes allow the system to keep that information secret. In denying the appeal, Assistant Attorney General Michelle D. Harrison wrote that Kentucky law essentially gives the public has the right to know how much state officials, bureaucrats and public workers earn in salaries while they’re employed by taxpayers, but that stops the moment they retire.

A lawyer for the retirement system first denied a December open records request from Pure Politics seeking the amount of money top-earning public pensioners received last year. But the system did release the number of pensioners in specific income thresholds to Pure Politics.

KRS Attorney Jennifer Jones cited a KRS statute 61.661 and 61.878(1)(1) that says, “Each current, former, or retired member’s account shall be administered in a confidential manner and specific data regarding a current, former, or retired member shall not be released for publication unless authorized by the member.”

In upholding the denial for the open records request the Attorney General’s office wrote:

“While this office remains of the view that KRS 61.661(1) should only be interpreted as broadly as necessary to effectuate its purposes, the information requested epitomizes the kind of ‘specific data’ regarding the accounts of members to which the General Assembly expressly afforded protection.”

State, county and city workers and the state police must pay a portion of their total compensation into the Kentucky Retirement System fund. The state, county and city governments are supposed to kick certain amounts as the employer. Local governments pay more than 20 percent of each employee’s salary into the fund and cannot skimp on that amount. The state, however, has failed to make the actuarialy required contribution since the budget beginning in fiscal year 2003. That has helped drain the pension fund, which is five years away from going broke unless the General Assembly takes action.

In 2011 the Kentucky Retirement system made monthly pension payments to 96,342 retirees, meaning those who get $100,000 make up .014 percent of those in the system.

The KRS also publicly lists the yearly average benefits from 2011 across the systems (KERS is the Kentucky Employee Retirement System that includes the most retirees and the CERS is the County Employee Retirement System and the SPRS is the State Police Retirement System):

KERS Non-Hazardous: $20,436
KERS Hazardous: $13,992
CERS Non-Hazardous: $10,872
CERS Hazardous: $24,672
SPRS: $36,840

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm joined cn|2 in December 2011 as a reporter for Pure Politics. Throughout his career, Nick has covered several big political stories up close, including interviewing President Barack Obama on the campaign trail back in 2008. Nick says he loves being at the forefront of Kentucky politics and working with the brightest journalists in the commonwealth. Follow Nick on Twitter @Nick_Storm. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@twcnews.com.

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Comments

  • Lowell Reese wrote on February 04, 2013 10:17 PM :

    Glad you are exploring and reporting on transparency. Other than the inflow of at least some degree of ready cash to avert the approaching insolvency of the KERS, arguably nothing is more important than transparency in the long-term to correct the self-serving abuses and to safeguard the public employees’ retirement systems. If the public only knew what is going on in Frankfort in the retirement systems, there would a revolution.

    A couple of other points. The KRS and AG’s office have denied your Open Records request to view pension amounts of individual retirees. You might want to try confirming with them that an individual is actually enrolled in one of the state’s six retirement systems. I have asked that question under the Open Records Act, and their reply was, by law, we can’t tell you. In other words, even who’s in the retirement systems is a secret. What you and I have learned from this is, the secrecy is a creature of state law, not a federal statute. Four states have opened up state pension information to their citizens … Oregon, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio.

    On former Rep. Cherry’s $14,000 annually pension after serving 14 years in a part-time job, a key factor is years of service. For others who serve longer, particularly those who have bought “air” and/or “military service” time, a pension of $40,000 to $50,000 a year is not uncommon.

  • viewer wrote on February 05, 2013 07:04 AM :

    If we are billions in the red , they have to open these records up so we can make some sense of this mess.

  • Eye Opener wrote on February 05, 2013 09:13 AM :

    How does opening up what each employee has earned over 27 or more years of service to the citizens of the Commonwealth allow anyone to make sense to the mess of the retirement system. It is not the employees who made a mess of the retirement system. We made our contributions each and every year including when our legislators stopped or curtailed in 2003. It was our legislators and governors who made a mess of this system . They did not allocate the required resources nor did they watch over the KRS Board and their investment strategies. As you can see average retires are not getting rich. There are outliers as there are with anything but 0.014% is minuscule. That’s 14 hundredths of 1% for those who are math challenged or 1,348 out of 96,342 retires. Lets not focus on that number, lets focus on the other 94,994 retires and make sure they get the benefits they have earned.

  • Chris Tobe wrote on February 05, 2013 09:41 AM :

    While Eye Opener is right about the bulk of pensioners, to maintain credibility you need to know about the outliers and especially their relationship to legislators and other people of power including the KRS board. KRS board and staff have stopping transparency of benefits as a top priority and it is no surprise that the AG is supporting this as much as we can as we have seen before in
    http://pageonekentucky.com/2012/03/14/krs-gets-another-free-pass-from-jack-conway/ and in AG opinions around KRS elections.

  • viewer wrote on February 05, 2013 09:46 AM :

    I have no problems with state workers. I am thankfull for all they do. With that being said , the state is 32billion in the whole. Thats a lot of money and we should see why. I dont care who is at fault. I care how we go forward. You chose to work for the state for one reason or another. I choose to see what Im paying for , for the service I have received. I dont buy the story of we work for less, because of benifits. For to long state workers have set back and watched waste and corruption in state government. Now the chicken has come home to roast. Im for workers getting their promised money. Just want to open up and see what has happened for us to be at this junction. There is mismangement and possible fraud here for this to be so far in the red. We need light to see. The people looking dont seem to have a clue.

  • viewer wrote on February 05, 2013 10:00 AM :

    The democrats have used Frankfort and tax payers for their personnal piggy bank for years. State jobs have keep them in power all across the state. If the GOP had a state party for the last 40 years it wouldnt have been this bad. Not that the Gop is any better ( Fletcher term ), but the Dems had no checks and balances for change to happen. Now we are where we are. Lets fix the problem and move forward.

  • viewer wrote on February 05, 2013 10:22 AM :

    We have people that have been dead for 20 years still voting in elections. Do you think someone hasnt figured out how to get john doe on the payroll or left john doe on tax payers dime long after he passed away ? If we cant look , how will we know how many john doe’s are on the draw….

  • sadkywkr wrote on February 05, 2013 10:25 AM :

    Change the statute and open it up! I am not ashamed of the pitifully small retirement that I am projected to receive someday in the near future. However, there are some legislators and non government retirees who would be very red faced and rightfully so if and when this was made public. Part time legislators drawing larger than deserved pensions. And retirees from KET, CCU, etc who were making MUCH more money than their state employee counterpart therefore making a very large pension. These non government entities should not be allowed to pull out of KRS until it is 100% funded and then they should buy out all of their employees AND retirees.

  • sadkywkr wrote on February 05, 2013 10:39 AM :

    Change the law and open it up! I would be happy for the general public to see what a pitifully small retirement I will hopefully receive upon retirement. But, there would be many red-faced legislators and retirees from quasi-government entities and rightly so. Part time legislators receiving MUCH larger pensions than they earned or deserve. Retirees from quasi-government agencies like KET, CCU, etc who make a lot more money than their state employee counterparts who will receive much larger pensions too. These agencies are now wanting to jump ship but leave their retirees with KRS! They should be required to stay until KRS is 100% funded and then if they want to leave, they can buy out their employees AND their retirees.

  • pure fan wrote on February 05, 2013 01:47 PM :

    Keep up the wonderful watchdog role, Pure Politics. Sunshine is the greatest disinfectant. Public employees are mocked, disregarded, have gone through pay cuts, furloughs, pay freezes and now are learning that our pensions have been raided for years to pay for nephew and cousin projects of state legislators who are lined up at the trough for more than their fair share.

  • viewer wrote on February 05, 2013 02:30 PM :

    I got a call from a friend on my earlier post. I would like to say that I am 100percent for the state workers. My friend has told me today that the state whistleblower rule is not working. If you expose waste or fraud you will probably get punished in some way. I have never worked for the state and dont know how it works. So I am sorry for saying that state employees set back and watch it take place. Ryan, see if you can look into what state workers rights are exposing problems in the state to try to get this fixed.

What do you have to say?





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