Kentucky Retirement Systems board member Tommy Elliott says he didn’t attend a recent meeting of the pension board because he says there was a “dynamic of fear” over whether he would be arrested by state troopers for participating.
Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd temporarily restored Elliott to the pension board last month after Elliott sued Gov. Matt Bevin for removing him from the governing body three years before the end of his appointed term.
However, Elliott didn’t attend two recent KRS board meetings, prompting the judge last week to question whether Elliott should remain on the board and inviting the governor’s office to move to have the court order him removed.
On Wednesday, Elliott testified that he didn’t attend one of the recent meetings because he was afraid he’d get arrested.
“Honestly, I was uncomfortable based on the fact of the way it read of what might occur if I attended that meeting,” Elliott said.
Elliott served for two years as chair of the KRS board.
The governor’s office sent Kentucky State Troopers to prevent Elliott from participating in a board meeting back in May, weeks after Bevin issued his executive order removing Elliott citing the need for a “fresh start.”
Elliott also argued that after the judge issued his order restoring him to the board, he didn’t have enough time to reschedule business plans before the first of the two pension meetings.
“It was not a meeting that I could so quickly adjust,” Elliott said.
Steve Pitt, Bevin’s general counsel, argued that Elliott had known for months that the meetings would take place and questioned why he made plans after the judge’s order.
Bevin says he has the authority to remove Elliott and has criticized his record on the board.
The pension system manages retirement funds for about 350,000 state employees and has around $20 billion in unfunded liabilities.
Attorney General Andy Beshear joined Elliott in challenging the governor’s actions after Bevin overhauled the board, adding new members.
Shepherd says he’ll rule sometime on Thursday whether Elliott should remain on the board while the lawsuit is pending. The KRS board is scheduled to meet at 10:00 Thursday morning.