IT pay study nixed by official in Gov. Beshear's cabinet, Personnel Cabinet secretary says

07/13/2017 06:18 PM

FRANKFORT — An official in former Gov. Steve Beshear’s executive cabinet directed the Personnel Cabinet’s human resources head to ignore a legislative committee’s request for a compensation study of the Commonwealth Office of Technology, Personnel Cabinet Secretary Thomas Stephens said Thursday.

Stephens was scheduled to present his cabinet’s findings in the pay study before the Program Review and Investigations Committee, but he told lawmakers that he only found out about the review two weeks ago when he was notified of Thursday’s meeting, which included a report on information technology in state government.

In its report, the Legislative Research Commission recommended that the Personnel Cabinet conduct a compensation and classification study to compare the cost of equalizing pay between state IT staff and their private sector peers with the cost of continuing to employ IT contractors.

Stephens apologized to legislators on the panel and said he was frustrated that someone in Beshear’s cabinet, whom he later identified as former Executive Cabinet Secretary Mary Lassiter, called the commissioner of the Personnel Cabinet’s Department of Human Resources Administration, Mary Elizabeth Bailey, and told her not to respond to the COT pay study requested by the committee in 2014.

“It was never done specifically because members of the prior administration contacted the Personnel Cabinet and told them not to do it,” Stephens testified.

Lassiter did not respond to a call seeking comment.

Stephens said the cabinet should have provided information requested by lawmakers and that the agency’s previous leadership was often absent.

He also noted that his predecessor, Tim Longmeyer, is serving a 70-month prison sentence on federal bribery charges stemming from contracts related to the Kentucky Employees’ Health Plan.

“People that are at the Personnel Cabinet, there’s a great workforce, and I’ve got a great team and they’ve been through enough,” he told Pure Politics after his testimony. “I mean, we’ve had federal law enforcement there. We’ve had people that have taken advantage of the system. We’ve had people that have taken money from the health insurance trust fund.

“They’re asked to do a lot. There hasn’t been a salary adjustment in state service in 10 years, and we’re doing a lot more with less, and so now, once again, it’s another example of dirty laundry having to be aired in front of the legislature because they weren’t allowed to do their jobs.”

Sen. Danny Carroll, co-chair of the Program Review and Investigations Committee, said he wanted more information on the pay study request when asked for his reaction to Stephens’ testimony.

“Normally if we direct or we specifically request a study, I’m not aware of anywhere it hasn’t happened or we haven’t received the information that we needed, so I want to look into this a little further and make sure that, what was the weight of the request,” said Carroll, R-Paducah.

“Was it just a recommendation, and what are the requirements for the executive branch to follow a recommendation from these studies? I just want to take a more practical approach with this and his comments and make sure I understand the weight of the apparent refusal to perform the wage study.”


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