Kentucky almost overnight has a mostly new Workers’ Compensation Nominating Committee and four brand new administrative law judges.
Three of the 5 members of the nominating committee, a governor-appointed body that recommends ALJs for appointment, abruptly resigned May 21, 2020: Runan Evans, John Senter and Megan Mersch.
Gov. Andy Beshear replaced them by executive order on May 22, 2020, with Robert Leo Miller of Harlan (replacing Evans), Jack Dulworth of Louisville (replacing Senter) and William Grover Arnett of Salyersville (replacing Mersch). Joseph Schulte and Joshua W. Davis remain on the panel, but Arnett has replaced Davis as chairperson. All of the new appointees and/or their families have been Beshear campaign donors, according to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.
Four days later, on May 26, 2020, the committee met to consider new recommendations for ALJs to replace four current judges whose terms were soon to expire: Jeffrey Layson, Richard Neal, Brent Dye and Jane Rice Williams. Layson, Neal and Dye were all appointed under the Bevin administration. The committee nominated 12 people (3 for each of the 4 positions) to be considered and forwarded their recommendation to the governor that same day.
Only one day after receiving the recommendations, on May 27, 2020, the new ALJs were announced. Beshear issued an executive order appointing the following to the post:
- Tonya M. Clemons, a Lexington workers’ compensation defense attorney, who will be the first female African-American workers’ compensation ALJ in Kentucky.
- Peter J. Naake, a Louisville plaintiff’s attorney.
- Thomas G. Polites, a Lexington plaintiff’s attorney and former ALJ.
- Paul L. Whalen, a Fort Thomas attorney.
A workers’ compensation ALJ earns the same salary as a circuit court judge, currently $130,926 per year. They hear and decide workers’ compensation claims throughout the commonwealth and serve four-year terms. The Department of Workers’ Claims presently has 15 administrative law judges.