Saturday, July 18, 2015

Fat pay is the order of the day — from governor to treasurer to Supreme Court

Posted By on Sat, Jul 18, 2015 at 9:47 AM

click to enlarge DID HE DO RIGHT: That's what Dennis Milligan promised.
  • DID HE DO RIGHT: That's what Dennis Milligan promised.
State employees got a miserly pay raise this year, to fit a budget constrained by tax cuts for the rich and a not-robust economy. But at least they got a 1 percent COLA after several years without.

However, select workers in certain offices did better.

Larry, Moe and Shemp at Treasurer Dennis Milligan's offfice — Jason Brady, Grant Wallace and Jim Harris — got raises of 11, 11 and 6 percent. That put their pay at a bit over $91,000 for the first two and $105,000 for Harris, who was laboring as a TSA agent at the airport before he joined Milligan in his disastrous tenure as Saline Circuit clerk, where legal settlements and fees are likely to hit the half-million mark before they're done. And that doesn't count the defamation lawsuit against Milligan and Harris by a former treasurer's employee and other misdeeds, such as the illegal hire of a Milligan cousin for a state job.  Don't forget that Harris wasn't qualified for the chief of staff job by terms of legislation enacted by the Republican legislature in 2013 to restore confidence in the treasurer's office. One of Milligan's first acts was to get that rule changed so he could hire his pal Harris, whose record in Saline County includes a juvenile episode recounted in one of the many lawsuits for — hah hah — having a local lawman put a comely lass in handcuffs for a time. Just a little morale-booster for the office, in between Milligan using the public copier for his horse racing hobby.

Michael Wickline, who reported on these salary boosts (earlier noted in our threads by a Milligan critic, also reported on some big pay boosts in the governor's office — $23,000 for a lawyer and $25,000 for a communications hand — but they were accompanied by more highfalutin' titles.

Speaking of pay raises: The legal community has been buzzing about yet another spot of contention in the Arkansas Supreme Court. It arises from some extraordinary pay boosts for staff of certain Supreme Court justices (an $18,500 boost for a clerk with four years on the job for Justice Karen Baker, for example). The increases appear to be out of line with pay for Court of Appeals staff, despite a statute that seems to demand pay parity.

I have the full details. At some point, I'll get it together in a coherent form.

My sources tell me the matter of disparate pay raises for staff was yet another issue on which opinions were divided on the Supreme Court. I was talking with a prosecutor yesterday (no, justices, not from Pulaski County) about a rising concern about court credibility, including the fear that personal feelings might influence actual decision-making. The court does make decisions now and then. Not now. Remember — when evaluating pay, recently pushed near $165,000 for justices — that Supreme Court jobs are far from full time. They take a long summer break and other holiday breaks, while issuing only a handful of cases each week when they are in session. And sometimes, as in the marriage equality case, never.

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