Kentucky Gov.-elect Andy Beshear announced Monday that Ruth Day, an executive at the transportation logistics company Landstar Systems, will serve as the state’s top information technology official when he takes office Tuesday.
Day, who Beshear said has a 30-year career in private-sector accounting and consulting, will succeed Chuck Grindle, whose two years leading the Commonwealth Office of Technology were known most for a $215,000 raise that made him by far the highest-paid state CIO in the country, and his close friendship with outgoing Gov. Matt Bevin.
Beshear introduced Day among several others who will make up his administration. Beshear, a Democrat who currently serves as Kentucky’s attorney general, said the state’s IT bureau — and its relationships with vendors and other government agencies — has been a frequent topic of discussion as he’s prepared to take over as governor.
“Throughout our transition, one of the issues that came up over and over was the Commonwealth Office of Technology,” he said. “I believe we have significant and serious problems both in the office and its provision of services to our cabinets.”
As a candidate, Beshear did not hesitate to name Grindle’s compensation or association with Bevin as issues plaguing COT. When he was hired as Kentucky’s CIO in December 2017, Grindle, a retired Army colonel, was given an annual salary of $160,000, slightly below the state’s maximum for government employees, but close to the national median for statewide IT chiefs. But after some legislative maneuvering in April 2018, Bevin was able to increase Grindle’s salary to $375,000 annually, nearly two-and-a-half times the national median of $153,326, and more than any other Kentucky state employee outside its public university system.
Bevin, a Republican elected in 2015, defended Grindle’s compensation by saying it was “a steal” compared to what a colonel with a doctorate in computer science might command in the private sector. But the raise only became a bigger political issue when it was revealed that Bevin and Grindle were friends going back to at least 1989 when they served together as young Army officers.
“The only thing those little scissors aren’t used for is cutting Charles Grindle‘s salary,” Beshear said during an August campaign event, referring to the red, scissor-shaped lapel pins that Grindle and other members of Bevin’s administration wore to suggest they were focused on cutting government expenditures.
Day is unlikely to earn as much as Grindle when she takes over COT. Shortly after the Nov. 5 election, a spokesperson for Beshear’s transition organization told StateScoop the new governor plans to “rein in” the CIO’s salary, though a precise figure was not given.
The office also faces several issues beyond executive compensation. A February report by the state auditor found “significant deficiencies” in Kentucky’s IT governance, including an incomplete disaster-recovery plan and insufficient restrictions on access to computers connected to the state’s networks. The state also needs to figure out the fate of the troubled KentuckyWired project, a $1.5 billion plan to provide the entire state with high-speed internet initiated by Bevin’s predecessor Steve Beshear, who is also the new governor’s father.
In his introduction of Day on Monday, Andy Beshear said her experience, beginning as an auditor and accountant at KPMG, is needed at COT.
“I was looking for someone with management experience dealing with thousands of independent contractors and clients that could make sure we can reestablish relationships between that office, but that we could also get a macro-level analysis of where we are and where we need to go,” he said.
Day commented briefly on her new job, acknowledging the tall order that awaits: “I think you can tell, the Gov-elect has laid out a clear and concise mission for me and I’m ready to go work for the people of Kentucky,” she said.
Grindle on Monday was seen at the Kentucky state Capitol as part of a receiving line for Bevin on his last day in office. The two exchanged a hug.