Public/private payroll 

Ruth Whitney, who serves as Attorney General Mike Beebe's chief of staff, is also a paid staff member of Beebe's campaign for governor.

According to Beebe's most recent campaign finance disclosure filing, Whitney received $4,617 as a "paid campaign worker" from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2005. During that period, a Beebe spokesman said, she worked 30 hours a week at the attorney general's office, earning the equivalent of a $67,296 annual salary. (Before she started splitting time with the campaign July 31, Whitney was making $89,729 for a 40-hour work week.)

"Of course she has earnings from the campaign," said Beebe campaign spokesman Zac Wright. "She has taken a cut in time and pay from the a.g.'s office in order to work for the campaign," adding that "this is the only ethical way to do it."

Graham Sloan, director of the state Ethics Commission, says what Whitney is doing appears to be legal, provided she is not doing campaign work while she is on the attorney general's clock. Arkansas Code 7-1-103 only says it is unlawful for a public employee to "devote any time or labor during usual office hours toward the campaign of any other candidate for office or for the nomination to any office."

"The operative language is you can't do it during usual working hours," Sloan said. "What people do on their own time is their own business."

Dog watch
The Insider dropped by the Governor’s Mansion last Saturday for the press conference about the Medicare drug program. We found more interesting a black bundle of fur being cradled in First Lady Janet Huckabee’s arms.

She was kind enough to introduce us to Sonic, a three-month old miniature Shih-Tzu that was her Christmas present from the governor. It’s a two-pound bundle of cute.

The name? Mrs. Huckabee is fond of the drive-in chain. She said the governor presented the gift in a Sonic cup. He joins Jet, a black Lab, as First Dog.

Hot on the grill
Saveur magazine, a slick food magazine, publishes a list of 100 favorite food-related things every year and there’s an Arkansas angle this year. Saveur writes up Lark Hunter and his CLA Grills and Service in Little Rock, for its comprehensive inventory of gas grills and replacement parts.

Said the magazine:

“If you call CLA Grills day or night, Hunter or a member of his family will diagnose your grill's malfunction over the phone and send the necessary parts ‘as fast as we can run.’ Hunter even took care of the grill at the home of Little Rock's most famous export. ‘Whatever else you want to say about him,’ Hunter reports, "Clinton was not unknown to march right out of the governor's mansion and grill his own steak if he felt like it."



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