Gov. Matt Bevin has come under fire for giving his hand-picked Chief Information Officer Charles Grindle a $215,000 raise last month, which makes his $375,000 annual salary $165,000 more than the second-highest-paid state CIO in the country.
In addition to first reporting this enormous raise, the Courier Journal reported Wednesday evening that Bevin has a personal, business and political relationship with Grindle going back nearly three decades to the time they had both served in the Army, according to a former employee in the Commonwealth Office of Technology and available public records.
Insider Louisville found additional information on the relationship between the two dating back to at least 2012 involving Bevin’s bell business, political campaigns and a trip the two took on a state aircraft just before he was hired as the state CIO.
Bevin spoke for the first time about Grindle’s raise and salary with reporters last Thursday, saying that the state did not conduct a search for the CIO position that had been vacant for 22 months because there was no one else in the country with his qualifications, adding that the state got Grindle for “a steal,” as he would make well over $1 million in the private sector.
Grindle and Bevin have declined to answer questions about their relationship, with Bevin only telling reporters last week that he has “known him for some time” and contacted him about the position when he found out Colonel Grindle was retiring from his teaching position at the Army War College.
In May 2012, Grindle first registered and administered keepthebellsinbelltown.com, Bevin’s website designed to gain public support for rebuilding his bell factory in Connecticut that was destroyed by a fire. The factory burned down in the early morning hours of May 27 after being struck by lighting, and Grindle formed the website just two days later.
Four days after that fire, Bevin told reporters at the site that he had decided to rebuild the factory and touted the website as a place for the public to share their words of support. Two months later, the state of Connecticut announced that it would give $200,000 to Bevin’s companies to rebuild.
In addition to the websites of over a dozen small businesses in Pennsylvania since the early 2000s, Grindle was also the first registered administrator for mattbevin.com — what would become his campaign website in his failed challenge against Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2014, as well as his successful run for governor the following year.
In addition to Lone Star Graphics receiving 14 payments totaling $26,106 from Bevin’s Senate campaign and 30 payments totaling $9,693 from Bevin’s gubernatorial campaign, Grindle remained the registered administrator of this campaign website until last week — when stories about Grindle’s large raise were in the media.
On Friday — a day after Bevin called Grindle underpaid — the website’s registered administrator switched to a company that is commonly used to conceal that person or company’s identity.
Additionally, Grindle first registered the website in February 2013, a full five months before Bevin declared his candidacy for U.S. Senate and long before Bevin was even rumored as a possible challenger against McConnell.
Insider also obtained Kentucky State Police records showing that Grindle accompanied Bevin and a state trooper on a state aircraft flying them from Frankfort to Charleston, S.C., and back again the next day in September 2017. This flight took place two weeks before Grindle’s hiring was announced and the last Bevin campaign payment to Lone Star Graphics, which both occurred on Oct. 9.
Bevin was scheduled to speak that weekend in Charleston at the Southern States Energy Board, a 16-state organization devoted to promoting economic development through innovations in energy. The KSP’s activity report for the governor shows the cost of the flight to Charleston as $1,850, with the KSP aircraft log for the flight back showing a cost of $1,024.
Last week, the Finance and Administration Cabinet — which the Commonwealth Office of Technology is housed under — released a statement on Grindle’s raise, noting that the General Assembly had months earlier passed legislation to raise the $160,000 cap on the CIO’s salary, which “was necessary to recruit and retain the best talent for this position, as CIOs are in high demand in the private sector.”
The cabinet’s statement also noted cost savings under Grindle’s leadership that “have paid for this salary increase many times over.”
“Under his leadership, the Commonwealth saw $2.9 million in immediate cost reductions created by managing consulting contracts and video conferencing,” read the cabinet’s statement. “His plan for a new converged server and storage infrastructure will create an estimated $3 million in annual savings beginning in Fiscal Year 2019, and he continues to find additional cost savings and efficiencies that will benefit the Commonwealth.”
Finance Cabinet spokeswoman Pamela Trautner told Insider that she was not aware of Grindle ever submitting a resume in regards to the CIO position, did not know anything about his previous relationship with the governor, and did not know whether their flight to Charleston was related to business, a political campaign or state matters.