Vice chairman of KRS board will become interim executive director Sept. 1

08/24/2016 06:35 PM

FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Retirement Systems’ Board of Directors on Wednesday named board member David Eager as the pension agency’s interim executive director once Bill Thielen retires Sept. 1.

Thielen announced his retirement at the May 19 KRS meeting.

One KRS board member who was not involved in Wednesday’s decision was Tommy Elliott, the former board chairman who was removed from the panel via executive order by Gov. Matt Bevin but restored in a temporary injunction issued by Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd on Monday.

Eager, a partner in the Louisville law firm Eager, Davis and Holmes, says he had expressed interest in the pension system to Gov. Matt Bevin and will be interested in the permanent position once a search is conducted.

For now, Eager says he’s anticipating an involved learning process as he begins his work leading the agency on a short-term basis.

“There are initiatives that are in place that need to keep moving forward, both investment and otherwise,” Eager, who served as vice chairman as appointed by Bevin, told Pure Politics during a break in Wednesday’s meeting. “My job right now is to get a better understanding of the situation and go through a real fast orientation. Being on the board is one thing, but being the executive director is another.”

One thing that isn’t clear is how much Eager will make as interim executive director.

The KRS board gave Chairman John Farris flexibility in negotiating a salary with Eager, who says he doesn’t see a scenario in which pay would force him to turn down the job.

“There are salaries that have been established, compensation has been established, there are industry standards, and as long as we abide by those, I can’t imagine it’s an issue at all,” Eager said.

Eager’s pay wasn’t the only salary discussed Wednesday at KRS works to moves its employees in the state’s personnel system. Only one current employee is expected to have their pay reduced as part of the shift, but Thielen said the new pay scales for KRS workers may make it more difficult to recruit and retain employees.

Thielen said KRS originally left the state’s personnel system because the job classifications didn’t meet the needs of the pension agency.

“There’s been a lot of concern among our staff, and it’s heartening to hear that the staff’s not going to lose any compensation,” he said.

Personnel Cabinet Secretary Thomas Stephens says pay is an issue throughout state government, with salary schedules unchanged since he left the administration of Gov. Ernie Fletcher in 2007.

Stephens said the most he can pay an incoming attorney in the state’s merit system is $62,000 annually, and he pinned the state’s inability to pay more on its growing pension debt.

“We know that we have a critical problem, and the number one reason that we cannot adjust the salary scale at this point is because the contribution amounts the to Kentucky Retirement Systems,” he said.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.



  • viewer wrote on August 24, 2016 07:54 PM :

    First, I think David Eager is a good choice here. In the circumstances we are facing, I don’t think that we could have a better replacement, for the time being, than Mr. Eager. His reputation is one of financial where-with-all, and his integrity has never been questioned. For the road we face ahead, both of those traits are a must.

    It has been a battle, but it is time for Bill Thielen to move on to new things. Mr. Thielen will probably be the first to tell you that he is looking forward to retirement. All jokes aside, Mr. Thielen was asked to do a lot, and as we all know and witness on a daily basis, dealing with our legislature and all that comes with that is an enormous task in and of itself.

    I mean no harm or disrespect to Mr. Thielen, but it became abundantly clear to me, several years back, that he was in over his head and not the man for the job. It is difficult for any of us, and we all should put ourselves in Mr. Thielen’s shoes. It is hard to admit that you are not up to the job. So, I don’t hold Mr. Thielen accountable for all of this. In fact, only a small bit.

    Sen. Joe Bowen is childhood friends with Bill Thielen. Their mothers grew up together. Joe Bowen couldn’t pull the plug and call out one of his lifelong friends. It is just that simple. Joe was over this debacle, and Joe Bowen owns a lot of the responsibility for where we find ourselves at today. That cannot be overlooked.

    Rep. Brent Yonts… Well, one of my closest friends grew up with Brent Yonts and is his friend to this day. This person tells me something good about Brent Yonts each time I say something negative. Well, I can’t help it. Brent Yonts bears a lot of the blame here, too. Brent Yonts was one of them, who thought that as long as the retirement checks kept clearing there was no problem. The funds, year after year, kept dwindling. No problem. The checks are still clearing the bank. This is just the truth.

    Rep. Jody Richards… The architect of this $50 billion hole we are facing in 2016. Jody Richards did not know at the time, but when Greg Stumbo replaced him as Speaker, that took all the blame and responsibility off of Jody, to where the public has already forgotten who began this pay to play for hire middle man ponzi scheme, if you need a job we got it, if you need healthcare we got it, state government is always hiring with benefits era. You need to retire early? Go to the bank and buy your time. It is a good investment. You need to retire and come back? We have you covered. If the taxpayer doesn’t pay their taxes, we will foreclose on them. It is the best deal going, he would tell them. There is very little sarcasm in that, my friends. $50 billion later, we have no idea how we are going to pay for it. Most of these the democrat party put on the state payroll don’t even know if they can afford to retire. Even if they do retire, they don’t know if their checks will keep clearing for much longer. It is a damn shame what Jody Richards and a few others have gotten us in to.

    We need a federal law that if a state, such as ours, Illinois, Connecticut, or even Puerto Rico, gets to the levels we have reached, some plan or strategy must be implemented before it gets to this level. I do not see anyway that we solve this pension crisis. It is not just Kentucky in this shape, but I don’t see how Kentucky solves this. By the time the 2018 General Assembly closes, we will probably have lost the entire amount that Gov. Bevin appropriated this year. That is over $1.2 billion in losses. Money out the door that is not being invested. I applaud the Governor for what he did this year, but the General Assembly didn’t ask for any changes. Not one single thing changed. We just ponied up more money. I like to say that it is like filling a bathtub up with water and pulling the plug, but expecting the tub to remain full. The General Assembly failed Gov. Bevin. The General Assembly failed the public employees. The General Assembly just left the taxpayer a bigger mess, but you will never hear them say that. What you ask them is, “What did we get in return for that $1.2 billion?”. They cannot answer that question. The viewer.

  • sad ky worker wrote on August 25, 2016 08:39 AM :

    The most recent actuarial analysis provided at the KRS meeting stated that KRS would be funded at 60% and have $7 billion in assets IF the General Assembly had paid the full ARC each year. So, the fault for the pension mess falls solely on the General Assembly. But you cannot invest your way out of such a big hole. Something much bigger is going to be required. The employees have continued to make their payments with every single paycheck without missing a single payment. It’s time for the General Assembly to keep their end of the deal.

  • Cumberland Gap wrote on August 25, 2016 09:11 AM :

    That’s right, the super recession that degraded so many pension plans and savings around the country had nothing to do our problem. Our revenue intake was immune to the super recession, you know. There was some kind of financial wall put up between Kentucky and remainder of the nation. LOL.

  • viewer wrote on August 25, 2016 11:04 AM :

    The pension crisis is a Global Problem. Kentucky is just showing the first and deepest cracks on the onslaught. The Federal Reserve and Central Banks around the world have known this since 2003. The stock market is all but ran by computers today. The fees everyone is paying to advisors is nothing more than another Ponzi Scheme being played on all…

    Last winter I watched several economist on panel at the University of Chicago. The topic was on how everyone got/ missed the 2008 crash. One of the economist said that, “ It’s a crime to yell fire in a movie theatre , but so is telling the truth on the shape the world economy is really in today.” In other words we have gone so far off the path of fiscal responsibility , we are just waiting on the day , we have to start all over from scratch. And that means some from of war , and whoever wins , controls the new currency. Sad but is the future reality the globe is facing…

    Buy low sell high. Buy quality. It’s that easy they tell us. The truth is everything is connected and when things are this bad , there is no safe play…

    Get the Good Book out and look for true wisdom. Get right with our maker and try to be better than you were yesterday. The rest will take care of itself… The viewer

  • viewer wrote on August 25, 2016 11:32 AM :

    Kentuckians have a front row seat to how , the rest of America will be transformed , in the socialist age we are going into. If you like the way Kentucky has been ran for the last 60 years and how we are all dependent in one form or another to government spending, no matter what business , job , or locality you are from , you are going to be right at home , ahead of the learning curve , with this new country , we call America. Kentucky is the blueprint for the rest of our nation to build upon. Let’s just hope going forward our struggles and hardships can be of some service , working the kinks out , for a better existence to our future generations…. The viewer

  • viewer wrote on August 25, 2016 02:12 PM :

    A little mind teaser for you politico’s to ponder :

    Which junk bond would you rather own as of today ?

    State of Kentucky’s debt or the debt incurred in Rio for the 2016 summer Olympic games ?

    Keep in mind that Greece has all but folded since hosting their games. Choose wisely as though you were an financial expert… The viewer

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