Robert M. Burnside , executive director of the $13.9 billion Kentucky Retirement Systems, Frankfort, was terminated on Thursday.
William Thielen, COO, was named interim executive director. The pension system will conduct a national search to replace Mr. Burnside, Christopher Tobe, a board member, said in a telephone interview.
Also, board Chairman Randy Overstreet was replaced by Jennifer Elliott, board trustee. Mr. Overstreet remains on the board.
The board voted 5-4 to replace Mr. Burnside and 5-3 to replace Mr. Overstreet.
Mr. Tobe said Mr. Overstreet had served as chairman for roughly 12 years. Mr. Burnside was hired in 2007. “It was time for a fresh start,” Mr. Tobe said.
The decision to terminate Mr. Burnside “was not meant to be a negative reflection on the integrity of Mr. Burnside,” Ms. Elliott said in a telephone interview. “In addition to the fact that the majority of the board thought it was time for a change and a new direction, we feel very strongly that we owe it to the members of the retirement system to be fully transparent in our actions and the actions of the retirement system,” she added.
Sources close to the board who asked not to be identified said that in February Mr. Burnside, without board approval, lobbied against a state bill that would have imposed term limits on retirement system board members and banned the use of placement agents at the retirement system. Several board members supported the proposal, which did not pass.
“Mr. Burnside said after the fact that he encouraged the (bill's author, state Rep. Mike Cherry) to pull the term limits (provision) out of the bill,” one person said. “At a minimum, he should have been neutral or silent.”
Sources also said board members were angered by a decision by Schuyler Olt, general counsel to the system who works closely with Mr. Burnside, to decline to release information concerning staff salaries at the retirement system to the public.
Board members were not aware of the request for salary information until state Attorney General Jack Conway issued an opinion on March 31 saying that denying the request was in violation of the state's Open Records Act.
The board voted on Thursday to make staff salaries public and to post them on the KRS website.
Neither Mr. Burnside nor Mr. Overstreet could be reached for comment.