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

02/04/2013 06:12 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. He is now the Anchor and Managing Editor of 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 @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@twcnews.com.

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