Friday, January 31, 2014

Mark Darr watch: Will he stay? Will staff go?

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 8:01 AM

click to enlarge LAST DAY? Waiting for word on Mark Darr.
  • LAST DAY? Waiting for word on Mark Darr.
I've again submitted FOI requests to Lt. Gov. Mark Darr's office in an effort to determine whether today will be his last day on the state payroll and what plans are in the works for maintaining a $250,000 payroll for an office that is unoccupied and won't likely be occupied until a successor is elected to take office in 2014.

A sensitive question remains to be answered by Republican lawmakers if they insist on employing the Republican-favored foursome that are employed to handle Darr's mail, such as it might be. (The office has no function except to provide a successor to the governor.)

Chief of Staff Bruce Campbell  submitted to the auditor's office some of the travel expense vouchers that were used to pay Darr with taxpayer money for some purely personal expenses, particularly commuting costs. More than $10,000 remains to be reimbursed by Darr for misuse of public money, along with an $11,000 fine for campaign spending violations.

Campbell came to the lieutenant governor's office after eight years as head of a state agency, the Rural Services Department. Presumably he had some idea about expense reimbursement procedures. You have to wonder whether he had any idea, based  on office attendance, that some of Darr's reimbursements were for car costs. It's long been a controversial topic. A Republican appointee like Campbell should have been sensitive to it. The state Republican Party once sued over the state's covering the cost of state officeholders' vehicles.

It's hard enough to argue for the need for a four-person staff to maintain an office without responsibilities and without an officeholder. It's harder still when a staff member had at least a ministerial role in the events that led to the officeholder's downfall. It presents an untoward appearance, too, when the chief of staff is father-in-law of a prominent Republican legislator, Rep. Duncan Baird, who's running for state treasurer himself. (I've said before that I've found Baird to be one of the legislature's straightest shooters. I don't visit any potential errors by his father-in-law on him, but the simple relationship — even Campbell's long partisan service alone —  is relevant as the legislature's view on Darr staff featherbedding unfolds.)

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