Not long ago, we posted an article of how the Governor of Kentucky hired one of his old Army buddies then gave him a whopping 134% increase in his paycheck making him one of the highest paid government employees in Kentucky. It was a classic example of how the swamp sometimes oozes back together to line their pockets at the expense of taxpayers in this case. NOW COMES ANOTHER STORY about Charlie Grindle and how he was enjoying free housing until the Courier-Journal asked about it.
Can you imagine? This clown is pulling down some serious cash from the state of Kentucky plus his Army pension then he’s allowed to have a free place to live. You talk about a charmed life, good grief. It’s time Kentuckians put these clowns out to pasture in that lush bluegrass they grow. In other words, it’s time to fire these schmucks and find someone who will at least work a little bit to protect the state treasury.
Wasn’t it old Harry Truman who said if you go into public life as an elected or appointed official and come out rich, you’re a damn crook. Makes us wonder if Colonel Charlie Grindle had other sources of income when he was on active duty in the Army. Anyone out there who has any information about Grindle’s Army career they want to share whether it’s good or bad… we’re listening.
By Tom Loftus
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Charles Grindle, Kentucky’s highly paid chief technology officer, was given 64 nights of free housing in the Old Governor’s Mansion and in a Governor’s Mansion cottage during his first four months on the job in late 2017 and early 2018.
But it wasn’t until Oct. 19 of this year — nearly nine months after he moved out and 31 days after the Courier-Journal asked about the arrangement — that Grindle paid the state $6,976 in rent.
Pamela Trautner, the spokeswoman for the Finance and Administration Cabinet, said Tuesday that she had no immediate explanation for the payment delay. In an email, she added that “After Mr. Grindle became a state employee, he was invoiced for his lodging at the Old Governor’s and New Governor’s Mansions, which he paid.”
Trautner said she doesn’t know when Grindle was asked to pay, but two undated invoices were apparently generated after the Courier-Journal filed a Sept. 18 request for public records related to Grindle’s residency at the historic Frankfort mansions.
Which state pays its technology chief the most? You do, Kentucky
Trautner said Grindle’s $109 per night rate was set by calling local hotels to determine their average rate for government employees, with the survey done just days before Grindle paid up on Oct. 19.
Grindle did not respond to a telephone message seeking comment Tuesday. Neither he nor Gov. Matt Bevin’s communications director, Elizabeth Kuhn, responded to email inquiries.
Bevin doesn’t live in the Governor’s Mansion and instead commutes about 42 miles each way to his family home in Anchorage. While both the Governor’s Mansion and the Old Governor’s Mansion are rented out for receptions and sometimes house VIPs visiting Frankfort, Grindle appears to have had special status.
Grindle and Bevin are longtime friends and business associates. Both were junior field artillery officers serving at Fort Polk, Louisiana, in the early 1990s, and Grindle and his private company, Lone Star Graphics, have in the past handled online operations for Bevin’s companies, his campaigns and for his family’s charity.
Bevin hired Grindle as chief information officer in October 2017 at an initial salary of $160,000 per year and on Aug. 1 gave him a stunning $215,000 raise — setting his current pay at $375,000. That easily makes Grindle the highest-paid Bevin administration employee and the nation’s highest-paid state chief information officer.
Bevin has staunchly defended the raise at a time when the state budget provides no money for raises for teachers or most state government workers.
“I would defy any of you to find anybody in America, in any capacity in government IT (information technology), that knows as much as this guy does,” Bevin told reporters in September.
Grindle, who retired as a colonel after starting work for the commonwealth, was chief information officer for the United States Military Academy in West Point and the Third Army in Iraq. He holds a master’s degree and doctoral degree in information science from the University of Pittsburgh and a second master’s degree, in strategic studies, from the U.S. Army War College.
The Bevin administration says Grindle’s overhaul of the Commonwealth Office of Technology has saved taxpayers millions of dollars.
“Under his leadership, the Commonwealth saw $2.9 million in immediate cost reductions by managing consulting contracts and video conferencing,” Bevin’s Finance Cabinet said in a statement in September. “His plan for a new converged server and storage infrastructure will create an estimated $3 million in annual savings in Fiscal Year 2019.”
In response to the Courier-Journal request for all records showing Grindle’s use of state-owned housing, the Finance and Administration Cabinet on Monday provided emails between Grindle and state officials overseeing the two mansions, as well as other documents that include:
— An undated invoice for 48 overnights at “the cottage” on the grounds of the Governor’s Mansion between Nov. 13, 2017, and Jan. 31, 2018 at $109 per night for a total bill of $5,232.
— An undated invoice from the Old Governor’s Mansion (also known as the Lieutenant Governor’s Mansion) for 16 nights in October and November of 2017 at $109 per night for a total bill of $1,744.
— Grindle’s personal check for $6,976 payable to Kentucky State Treasurer and dated Oct. 19, 2018.
When asked why the invoices, which were obtained by the Courier-Journal, were not dated, Trautner said in an email that, “These entities do not typically generate invoices. Due to the length and nature of this particular stay, an invoice was issued and paid.”
Grindle’s state employment letter doesn’t provide for housing assistance, nor do the records provided by the state address terms for his use of state-owned housing.
Grindle retains a residence in Pennsylvania. On Jan. 31, he sent an email informing Governor’s Mansion manager Maurita Whelan that he had found another place to stay in Frankfort.
“I wanted to say thank you for your hospitality and support as I transitioned to the Commonwealth,” Grindle told Whelan. “I handed in the key this am, but was caught up in the days events and did not let you know that I have found a place in downtown Frankfort (certainly not as nice) but will do for now. I really appreciate all you have done for me and will be forever grateful.”
Emails and a schedule of events for the Old Governor’s Mansion show Grindle also stayed there at no charge for at least 16 nights prior to becoming a state official on Oct. 9, 2017.
He wasn’t billed for those dates (three in late January of 2017, and at least 13 in September or early October of 2017) and the state provided no record of payment.
“For those periods of time, Mr. Grindle was a guest of the Commonwealth and not a state employee,” Trautner said in an email. “Once Mr. Grindle became a state employee, he was asked to reimburse the state for dates of stay after his hire.”
Emails provided the Courier-Journal also include exchanges between Grindle and Erin Warford, director/event coordinator at the Old Governor’s Mansion, who told Grindle that state policy requires the governor’s approval for booking guests at the old mansion.
In the emails, Warford gives Grindle instructions for things like parking at the old mansion and asks “about any specific needs you may have, such as drink or snack preferences.” But there’s no mention in the emails of reimbursing the state.
The old mansion’s event schedules show occasional overnight stays by other people but that Grindle was the only long-term tenant at the time.
The records provided to the Courier-Journal include many redactions, including one large section deleted under an exemption to the Open Records Act that allows withholding documents related to a preliminary government decision, with no further explanation.
Many state legislators of both political parties have acknowledged Grindle’s top qualifications, but say there’s no justification for his salary, which is more than $160,000 higher than any of his counterparts in other states.
StateScoop, an online publication that covers state government technology, last week reported that Grindle is not alone among state CIOs with extensive military experience.
“Michigan’s Dave DeVries, also a 29-year Army veteran who finished as a colonel, and Minnesota’s Johanna Clyborne serves as a brigadier general in her state’s National Guard,” StateScoop wrote. “Their salaries are $180,000 and $130,010, respectively.”
StateScoop, which interviewed Grindle at the annual conference of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers in San Diego, said “Grindle acknowledged having known Bevin in the Army, but declined to go into detail. He also refused a request to audio-record the conversation, though he allowed StateScoop to take pen-and-paper notes.”