Collins to work toward increasing visitation to Arkansas by groups and promoting the state's appeal
A source says he's been interviewed by FBI agents doing background checks on former state Rep. Chris Thyer of Jonesboro for possible nomination to be U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. The Obama administration has been so slow to move on this appointment that the original front-runner, Michael Barnes of Little Rock, dropped out of consideration.
Gone, but ...
Sen. Steve Faris apparently will still be haunting the Senate chamber next year despite being term-limited. Sources say he'll be hired as a temporary legislative staffer. Don't be surprised if he winds up with a full-time Senate job. At least one key position could be opened if, as expected Senate staffer Bruce Campbell joins the staff of rising Lt. Gov. Mark Darr. It's long rankled many Democrats that Campbell, a former member of the Huckabee administration, had a Senate job while being seen often in the company of Republican officials plotting this year's sweep of open Senate seats.
Enjoy your stay
Lottery officials took a beating last week in front of state auditors and legislators regarding the commission's reporting of travel expenses, among other issues. Auditors took issue with a trip to New York taken by Vice President of Gaming Operations David Barden to attend a conference from March 22-25. The total cost of Barden's trip was $1,280. All other employees returned to Arkansas after the conference ended, while Barden stayed in New York until March 27. The extra two-night stay was justified because Barden attended additional meetings and had to attend a conference in Washington on the 28th. Staying two extra nights eliminated a return trip to Little Rock, Lottery Director Ernie Passailaigue told reporters last week.
Barden's room was also $100 more expensive per night than those of other employees. According to the report, "The room is a Sheraton Club Suite which is eligible for complimentary access to the Sheraton Lounge on the 44th floor; this access provides complimentary breakfast, evening hors d'oeuvres and adult beverages each day."
According to a lottery response included in the working papers to justify the extra expense, "The other ASL employees received the discounted rate of $189 a night plus taxes ($220/night). After the block of rooms were sold out, the hotel's regular room rates applied."
The report indicates the lottery spent $57,741 on travel from August 2009 through October 2010, with Passailaigue spending 27 days on the road, or 15 percent of the time; and Barden traveling 38 days or, on average, one day out of every five.
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