Service in the state legislature is a part-time job. The yearly compensation is $15,689 (although that doesn’t include per diem payments), and it’s understood that legislators will probably find other employment when the General Assembly is not in session.
But legislators must obey state law. Legislators who also hold a state government job can’t accept two different paychecks for the same work period. It’s OK to get one paycheck for Monday’s work and a second paycheck for Tuesday’s work, but if you’re getting paid from two different sources for working the same work period, it’s a problem. Similarly, if you’re a legislator who is paid to be in a non-legislative state government office doing a non-legislative state government job, but you’re actually doing legislative work or political work, it’s a problem.
Accepting payment for Job 1 while actually doing Job 2 is known informally as “double-dipping.” Legislators aren’t supposed to do it: as one of George Costanza’s antagonists once said, you’re supposed to “just take one dip and end it.” Rep. Tiffany Rogers appears to have broken this rule repeatedly.
As the Director of Continuing Education for Phillips Community College, Rep. Tiffany Rogers is paid, on average, about $40,000 a year. That yearly salary figure would ordinarily be about $10,000 higher – except that, when the legislature is in session, Rogers usually takes an unpaid personal leave of absence. There’s nothing wrong with that – someone in her position would customarily take unpaid leave so as to eliminate the double-dipping that would be caused by accepting multiple paychecks for the same work. However, public records demonstrate that Rogers has repeatedly neglected to reduce her compensation from Phillips Community College while doing legislative or political work. In fact, she appears to have taken after George Costanza on at least four occasions.
- According to the records of the House of Representatives, Rogers attended a “House Caucus” meeting on Friday, November 5, 2010, for which she ultimately received a $149 per diem payment. However, she also received her full salary of $4,098.76 for that month from Phillips Community College. The Leave Report she filed with PCC for that month shows no leave of absence for that day.
- Similarly, on Wednesday, April 18, 2012, Rogers attended a “House Caucus” meeting, for which she received a $147 per diem payment. Rogers received her full salary of $4,165.42 for that month – and, again, the Leave Report she filed with PCC for April 2012 shows no leave of absence for that day.
- In addition to the two days above in which Rogers appears to have drawn a double salary from taxpayers, she also appears to have improperly drawn a salary from PCC while attending a legislative conference in San Diego, California in 2009. Rogers received a $931.96 travel reimbursement from the House for a trip to the National Conference of State Legislators’ “Fall Forum” in the luxurious San Diego Marriott Hotel from December 10 through December 14 of 2009. (The application form, which specifies that the conference took place from December 9 to December 12, is here.) The Leave Report she filed with PCC for December 2009 shows no absences whatsoever for the entire month – and shows that she took a higher gross salary ($4798.76) than she did the 3 preceding months. Rogers was therefore paid a PCC salary during the time she attended the San Diego conference on legislative business. (Notably, when Rogers took her first taxpayer-funded conference trip out of state as a legislator – to an NCSL conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – she also requested an entire week of leave without pay.)
- Furthermore, the Arkansas Democratic Party’s Facebook page describes a January 31, 2012 noon event in which Rogers is pictured. This was a “Pre-Fiscal Session Fiscal Responsibility Press Conference” whose purpose, according to its press release, was to let the “majority leadership of the state Senate and state House Democratic caucuses” announce a commitment to “continued fiscal responsibility.” There is presumably nothing wrong with state employees using their lunch hour for political purposes, and there is presumably nothing wrong with state employees taking a day off for political purposes. But Rogers did neither. Stuttgart is 54 miles away from Little Rock, and it appears that she was calling for fiscal responsibility while in the Capitol as she was simultaneously drawing a taxpayer-funded salary for working in Stuttgart. Once again, PCC’s payroll records show that she drew her full salary of $4165.42 for the month of January 2012 and that she requested no leave of absence on that day.
Everyone is allowed an occasional mistake. A pattern of similar mistakes, each one of which creates a financial benefit, is less forgivable. When put together, these overpayments suggest a pattern of violations of state ethics law.
I contacted Rep. Rogers for comment around 10:20 this morning. She informed me that she was in a campaign meeting and asked who I was with. When I told her, she said she would call me back afterward the meeting concluded. Nearly four hours later, I am yet to receive a call back. If I do, I will update this post.