Arkansas PoliticsGovernment Waste

State Department Heads Receive Massive Raises — But Who Authorized Them?

Senator Clark, hero of the taxpayers.
Senator Clark, friend of the taxpayers.

During this year’s legislative session, state employees were awarded a 2% cost-of-living raise. However, State Senator Alan Clark has discovered that, apparently, 49 state department heads have received raises of an average of $9,600 — and no one seems to know who authorized them.
From Senator Clark:

It appears it pays to be at the top of the food chain in state government. Literally. During the 89th General Assembly in the spring of 2013 the state legislature authorized a 2% cola (cost of living adjustment) for state employees. But it appears someone else has authorized larger raises for 49 department heads and executives in state government. With salaries averaging $118,719.51 each it would not appear that this group was underpaid. But they received an average raise of almost $10,000 ($9600.54) each or almost 10% (8.9%) this fiscal year beginning July 1, 2013. And what is the total bill to the state? It is almost half a million dollars ($480,026.78) per year. When you add other matching benefit costs the state must pay like retirement and FICA it is well over half a million dollars per year in cost to taxpayers.
Using the 2% cola that was authorized these employees would have received 5 and a half times the raise of a person earning $20,000 or $10/hour ($2200 versus $400). But with the huge unapproved raises their raise is almost half the annual salary of the person earning $10/hour. That is interesting in times when the news media is continuously talking about the rich getting richer. Now we know how.
I do not know who authorized these raises.”

Clark said he has worked with Senator Bryan King, Senate Chairman of the Joint Audit Committee, to track down these numbers and craft legislation to stop this conduct in the future. Clark, however, said he was surprised at how widespread this problem is:
When I asked staff to research this I expected we would find 1 or 2. I hoped we would find none. It is shocking to find 49. This appears to be an organized effort. 49 cannot be mere coincidence.”

Clark said he hopes the legislature will move to “rescind the raises, censure those responsible, and take steps to see that this can never happen again,” adding that he’s “tired of business as usual at the state Capitol.”
Not to ruin your Thanksgiving or anything, but you can read the full report of the raises here.
The biggest winner is Grant Tennille, Director of the Economic Development Commission. He’s raking in an extra $18,322 (an increase of 15.27%) this year. Considering all of the failed AEDC projects we’ve seen this year (like this one and this one), that seems a little strange.
Another big winner is Ray Hobbs, Director of the Department of Correction. Hobbs received a raise of $14,508.21 or 10.91%.
And finally, check out our old friend Bill Walker, Director of the Department of Career Education: after costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars in (avoidable) legal fees and getting slapped by the Office of Personnel Management for misconduct, he’s raking in an extra $11,549.82. Not bad for government work.
Again, it is unknown at this point who authorized the raises or where the funds came from. Kudos to Senators Clark and King for their hard work to get to the bottom of this. I suspect this is not the end of this story.

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