Money swap to benefit legislator's employment | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Money swap to benefit legislator's employment

Posted By on Sun, Apr 22, 2012 at 7:00 AM

SEN. JOYCE ELLIOTT: Moving from UALR to city payroll.
  • SEN. JOYCE ELLIOTT: Moving from UALR to city payroll.
The Democrat-Gazette's Michael Wickline has a good "gotcha" story in the Sunday newspaper.

UALR advertised for and hired a person to run the Central Little Rock Promise Neighborhood project and put that person on payroll last September. The worthy project to lift the people and neighborhood around UALR is financed by federal, city, state and private money.

The person hired, at $80,000, was state Sen. Joyce Elliott, who's already proven an unsurprisingly vigorous advocate for people in the neighborhood.

Oops. State law prohibits hiring of sitting legislators for state jobs. It was an oversight in this case, all say. It will be corrected by funneling the money through the city of Little Rock first. As far as bookkeeping and the statute are concerned, yes, all may now be well. As far as appearances, not so much unfortunately. It doesn't erase UALR's selection of a legislator for a publicly financed job. She's permanently conflicted as a legislator, of course, on matters relating to UALR or the city of Little Rock, if she's elected to another term. Rep. Fred Allen is challenging her in the Democratic primary.

I was curious about one thing. I looked up the statute that prohibits hiring of legislators for most state jobs, 21-1-402. There's no sanction outlined. State payments to a person prohibited from holding a state job — if the university be considered a state agency under terms of this act — could be subject to challenge in court, I guess. Some legal precedents suggest that money received by a state employee in good faith is not subject to repayment even if the arrangement is successfully challenged, however.

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