Gov. Matt Bevin’s recent controversial appointee to the board of the Kentucky Retirement Systems has declined the position.
In a letter to the governor dated Tuesday, Madisonville dermatologist William F. Smith said he respectfully declines the appointment to the 13-member board after careful consideration.
“I remain steadfastly committed to pension reform, and will continue to seek a resolution to the serious issues confronting Kentucky arising from the commonwealth’s unfunded pension,” Smith said.
“As a result of this commitment, if I can serve the commonwealth in the future in a similar or related capacity, I stand willing to do so,” he added.
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Bevin’s office had no comment except to repeat what it said Tuesday after Attorney General Andy Beshear said in an opinion that Smith was not qualified to serve on the board as a professional because he lacks 10 years of experience in public or private finances. Beshear also said the governor isn’t allowed to remove a trustee from the board of the Kentucky Retirement Systems before the trustee’s term has expired.
The opinion was requested by the systems’ executive director, William A. Thielen, after Bevin removed board Chairman Thomas K. Elliott last month. Elliott’s term didn’t expire until 2019. After removing Elliott, Bevin appointed Smith to replace him.
Bevin’s press secretary, Amanda Stamper, said in a news release Tuesday that Smith is qualified to serve on the board. The release also said the attorney general’s opinion differs from state Supreme Court precedent and a previous attorney general’s opinion.
Jim Carroll, a co-founder of the advocacy group Kentucky Government Retirees, recently said of Smith: “It is impossible to imagine an appointee less qualified by background or philosophy to contribute meaningfully to the KRS board of directors.”
Carroll said Wednesday that his group appreciates Smith’s decision to step aside.
“We believe he clearly made the right decision,” he said. “We hope Gov. Bevin will take this opportunity to rescind his action to remove a sitting Kentucky Retirement Systems trustee without cause.”
Carroll added: “The governor has made two strong appointments to the board in David Eager and John Farris, and will have the opportunity to make three more appointments in 2017. We hope he recognizes that KRS needs stability to help address the enormous challenges facing it, and that pursuing this matter in the courts would be counterproductive.”