Sympathy for the sheriff 

I got Lance Huey on the phone shortly after lunch Monday. He broke off the conversation periodically to bid goodbye to friends who'd dropped by his going-away party.

At 6:30 p.m. Monday, Huey resigned as Grant County sheriff. Tuesday morning, he went to work as director of security for the new state lottery.

Huey's hiring for more than $115,000 (almost a $70,000 jump from his pay as sheriff) poured gasoline on a statewide brush fire about lottery salaries. To give you some idea: When a marketing director was picked at $92,000, it was the lowest pay to date, but still enough to make the average Arkansas family feel richer than Scrooge McDuck.

The lucky ducks of the lottery are defensive. Not without some reason. It's one thing for taxpayers to grumble. But when legislators start chunking rocks from their glass tower, it's another. Six-figure paychecks aren't unheard of on the legislative staff, nor are state-provided cell phones and cars. It wasn't lost on many that House Speaker Robbie Wills, who approved lottery pay scales, harrumphed about pay while enjoying Chinese  cuisine and sightseeing on a government-paid junket to Taiwan.

Huey went on a Little Rock radio show Monday morning to say that he really won't make more money than State Police Director Winford Phillips, whose salary is about $108,000.

“He's a good guy and he's my friend, but he's been unfairly cast into this debate,” Huey said, before bringing Phillips right into it. Huey noted that Phillips was drawn out of retirement to take the director's job, which means he makes a cumulative $160,000 to $170,000 from retirement and current pay. Since lottery director Ernie Passailaigue makes more than $420,000 from Arkansas pay and South Carolina retirement, this is perhaps not a fruitful comparison. Huey himself will qualify for State Police retirement in seven years, when he turns 52.

Still, I have some sympathy for Huey, who was one of several State Police veterans interviewed for the job. Was he supposed to reject an offer because it was too high?

“You have to ask yourself: Have you ever bargained yourself down at something? I think Ernie saw in me the person he needed for this particular job.”

There are risks. “If I strike out, he'll send me to the showers,” Huey said.

Huey has abundant experience to be the lottery's liaison with local law enforcement agencies, which will have new potential problems when lottery machines hit every crossroads in Arkansas. He'll work with the State Police, which will do background checks on retailers.

Huey, by the way, grew up in East Arkansas. A State Police assignment took him to Grant County, where he was elected to Quorum Court and then sheriff.

He said he'd encountered Grant County native son Ray Thornton, the lottery commission chairman, only twice in his life — once to say hello at the courthouse and once when the sheriff helped with traffic at the funeral of Thornton's mother, sister of financiers Witt and Jack Stephens. Huey said he'd never met the tycoons and had been to the Stephens family farm at Prattsville only on routine law enforcement calls.

Huey wishes, most likely in vain, for a bit more understanding. “Any of those people who were sitting across that table in my place would take that deal if they knew they were qualified and knew they could do the job.”

Huey knows, though, that he's under the microscope.  “I jumped out of the little pond to the big lake of Little Rock and I'm ready to go.”




Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Fort Smith mosque vandalized

    Fort Smith's Al Salam mosque was vandalized Thursday morning.
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • The open line and headlines

    Here's the Thursday open line and mid-afternoon news roundup.
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • Kochs spread money around Arkansas

    The Koch Industries PAC spread a lot of money around in September, including significant sums in state legislative races around the country. All politics is local when you have a big polluting industry to look after.
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • The education legislature

    Republican political control in Arkansas means many things: lots of gun bills, lots of anti-abortion bills, lots of efforts to make religious belief law, such as discrimination against gay people.
    • Mar 10, 2015
  • Asa's team

    It's a measure of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's appointments that the most widely praised appointment so far was of a man ineligible to hold the job.
    • Mar 3, 2015
  • Supremely discredited

    Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood and her allies continue to discredit the state's highest court.
    • Jul 30, 2015

Most Shared

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Trumped in Arkansas

    After two solid debates and the release of a video and corroborating testimony that further confirmed the misogyny of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton is favored to win the presidential election Nov. 8
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • So many provocations...

    Another bad week demands a Worst Of listing.
    • Oct 6, 2016
  • State university secrets

    Today's subject: lack of accountability at state universities.
    • Sep 29, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge opens veterinary clinic

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge opens veterinary clinic

Eureka Springs non-profit will provide on-site veterinary care to its more than 60 exotic and native large animals.

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Arkansas 2016: the microclimate election

    In the lead-up to the past four Arkansas election cycles, the forecast has been a fairly simple one: strong winds blowing in the GOP direction.
  • The big loser

    So now the big crybaby says he's losing because his opponent is crooked and the referees are blind.
  • Trumped in Arkansas

    After two solid debates and the release of a video and corroborating testimony that further confirmed the misogyny of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton is favored to win the presidential election Nov. 8

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: The big loser

    • Ah, yes, Trump the loser - yes, we know all that. But what bothers me…

    • on October 20, 2016
  • Re: Trumped in Arkansas

    • You lump the convict Jim Guy Tucker in with men like Clinton, Fulbright, Rockefeller, Bumpers…

    • on October 20, 2016
  • Re: The big loser

    • I hope you're right, but it only takes one nut with a gun and a…

    • on October 20, 2016

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation