Chief Justice Lambert wins on Double Dipping issue with unlikely help of Sen. Willliams

    On the last day of the 2007 session of the General Assembly the Senate chose not to approve the appointment of Retired Court of Appeals Judge Robbie Dyche to the Ky. Worker’s Compensation Board. Dyche was nominated to the position by Governor Ernie Fletcher in January.Last week LawReader reported:

“While they have two more legislative days (March  26-27) to give their consent, the story goes that Sen. David Williams is not favorable to the appointment and will issue a statement condemning the appointment as service on the Board would allow Judge Dyche to “double dip� by drawing a salary as a member of the Worker’s Compensation Board and as a retired judge.  The combined salary for which he would be eligible is approximately $220,000 a year.

 Former Court of Appeals Robbie Dyche was nominated by Gov. Ernie Fletcher for appointment to the Worker’s Compensation Board under authority granted to him by KRS 342.215.   KRS 342.213 requires that such appointment obtain the consent of the Senate�.

  Indeed Senator Williams issued a statement on the last day of the legislative session in which he recognized that Judge Dyche was qualified for the position on the Worker’s Compensation Board, but he felt the fact that Dyche would have been eligible to double dip would have been a bad precedent.  Therefore, the position remains vacant and the Governor must now submit another nominee.

   In 2005 Chief Justice Joseph Lambert became the first official in State Government to do something to prohibit retired judges being able to double-dip by receiving their judicial retirement benefits, and then being eligible to earn a full salary by getting elected to another judicial position.

The Chief Justice lobbied the General Assembly to get language included in the Judicial Budget bill to forestall Dyche or any other judges who had retired and then ran again for their same office or another judicial office to double dip. The legislation Lambert succeeded in obtaining would allow a judge to retire and take another judicial office, but he would only receive one salary..

In January of 2006, Judge Dyche filed for re-election to the Court of Appeals. He then retired in June but did not withdraw his re-election petition and remained unopposed on the ballot for re-election to his same office.  If the Chief Justice had not obtained the judicial double-dip legislation, Dyche would have been able to draw a full retirement benefit and a full Judicial salary for assuming the office from which he had just retired.

Dyche, being unopposed was elected to his old Court of Appeals seat in November of 2006.  He kept his intentions to himself about his intentions of assuming the office to which he had been elected until January 2007.

 It was however speculated by many in Frankfort that Dyche, having been denied a chance to draw two judicial paychecks, was seeking appointment to the Worker’s Compensation Board.  The position on the Board allowed a salary equal to the Court of Appeals salary.  That appointment was indeed made by Governor Fletcher in January of 2007, but it required consent of the Senate in the 2007 session of the General Assembly.

   As predicted by LawReader, Senator Williams did kill the Dyche plan to double dip. The result is that the Senate President, who has been critical of the Chief Justice, in the end followed the example set by Lambert and took a strong position against double dipping by retired judges.

    Judge Dyche was a highly regarded member of the Court of Appeals, and everything he did was entirely within the law. 

The legislature has not adopted legislation to deal with this issue. If the Governor appoints Dyche to another position that does not require Senate consent, he would be able to draw his full judicial retirement and the full salary in the executive branch position to which he might be appointed.  But the Chief Justice has blocked this happening in the Judiciary, and he did so quickly and without hesitation.

One can only imagine the negative reaction of the General Assembly and the public if Lambert had not skillfully maneuvered to prevent this problem before it occurred

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