Franklin County

Hindman quits cabinet post

Economic Development Secretary John Hindman is returning to the private sector to start a consulting business, Gov. Steve Beshear announced Tuesday.

Although Hindman is resigning, Beshear said the state will rehire Hindman as a consultant for one year at his current salary, $250,000.

The state probably will not be Hindman's only client, Beshear said.

"He's going to be very active with us for the next year," Beshear said. "And we thought it was very important to retain him."

Hindman, who was a consultant before he joined the cabinet in June 2007, said he decided to resign because he wanted more time for his family.

"I want to step back from the intensity of the job and go back to some of the consulting work," he said.

Hindman said he does not know what form his consulting will take. In the past, he worked with Greater Louisville Inc., an economic development group, on strategic planning.

"I'm not tied to anything in particular," Hindman said. "I'll just see what comes my way."

As a consultant, Hindman will be able to help the state with some "very important projects," such as the expansion of Ford in Louisville and an effort to retain a spin-off of General Electric's appliance business, Beshear said.

Secretary of the Cabinet Larry Hayes will become acting secretary of the Cabinet for Economic Development while continuing to serve as secretary of the cabinet in the governor's office. He will not receive any additional compensation.

"It's important that we not miss a beat," Beshear said. "And with Larry we won't."

Hindman's short tenure with the cabinet raises questions about the kind of continuity he will provide, said Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a Washington-based group that promotes accountability for state economic development programs.

Mid-level people, who negotiate contracts, vet deals and have an institutional memory are probably more important than an executive who stayed 15 months, LeRoy said.

Hindman offered his resignation to the Kentucky Economic Development Partnership Board on Tuesday. The board, which is chaired by Beshear, is made up mostly of businesses executives. It also approved his consulting contract.

Hindman, a former UPS executive, was appointed by former Gov. Ernie Fletcher, a Republican. Beshear is a Democrat.

Republicans criticized Beshear Tuesday for "tearing down the firewalls that are intended to protect economic development."

"Rather than supporting an independent search for a cabinet secretary, the governor indicates that he intends to allow the position to be occupied indefinitely by someone whose primary job is still executive secretary of the cabinet and whose office is in the governor's inner sanctum," said Lourdes Baez-Schrader, spokeswoman for Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville.