Double-dip watch | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Double-dip watch

Posted By on Tue, Jul 28, 2009 at 6:02 AM

State Rep. Allen Kerr (R-Little Rock) says as many as 200 elected county officials could be drawing both retirement and regular pay. A stickier question is how many of those legally terminated employment to qualify for benefits. Did they stop pay? Were positions publicly declared vacant. Did they stop work? Did they stop taking any public assistance in insurance? A 10-year review of the practice will take time.

The good news is that a 2009 law that requires a six-month retirement period of public employees before returning to work probably means the end of sham public employee "retirements." Over the years, these produced hundreds of sham rehirings (employees were rehired for their jobs regardless of other applicants), often at the very top of state agencies. See list here of state double-dippers.

But, ironically, the six-month "retirement" requirement doesn't necessarily cut ELECTED officials out of their gravy train. Here's why. Next year, a county elected official can file for re-election. If no opponent emerges by the spring filing deadline, he's good to go. Assured of another term, he can retire for six months and then return to office the following Jan. 1 with both a retirement check and a new paycheck in the same office. Since elected officials can double-count their years of service, some of them can retire at full pay, unlike garden variety state employees who can only draw roughly half their pay. I think  that the noise made by Kerr will at least require full public notice if future elected officials try to continue to perpetuate this unnecessary emolument. Shame might discourage some of them. Might.

UPDATE I: Rep. Kerr has posted a newsletter about his work to date.

UPDATE II: Attorney General Dustin McDaniel mentioned the topic in a talk today to Arkansas sheriffs. He said:

"I'm deeply concerned and disappointed that things were allowed to become so confused.  However, I'm not jumping to any conclusions until I have all the facts.  One thing that I think all concerned will agree on is that things cannot continue in the future exactly as they have in the past.  That's truly all I intend to say at this time.""I'm deeply concerned and disappointed that things were allowed to become so confused.  However, I'm not jumping to any conclusions until I have all the facts.  One thing that I think all concerned will agree on is that things cannot continue in the future exactly as they have in the past.  That's truly all I intend to say at this time."

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