Alan Clark complains about raises to state agency directors that Alan Clark voted to authorize | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Alan Clark complains about raises to state agency directors that Alan Clark voted to authorize

Posted By on Wed, Nov 27, 2013 at 12:49 PM

CLARK: He can find the culprit he's looking for in the mirror.
  • CLARK: He can find the culprit he's looking for in the mirror.
Sen. Alan Clark
(R-Hot Springs) sent out a press release yesterday complaining about "unauthorized raises for department heads." Only problem: Clark himself voted to authorize them. 

Clark states that the legislature authorized a 2 percent cost of living adjustment for state employees, but "it appears someone else has authorized larger raises for 49 department heads and executives in state government." Clark complains, "I do not know who authorized these raises." 

With salaries averaging $118,719.51 each it would not appear that this group was underpaid. But they received an average raise of almost $10,000 ($9600.54) each or almost 10% (8.9%) this fiscal year beginning July 1, 2013. And what is the total bill to the state? It is almost half a million dollars ($480,026.78) per year.

Clark continues, gaining steam: 

When I asked staff to research this I expected we would find 1 or 2. I hoped we would find none. It is shocking to find 49. This appears to be an organized effort. 49 cannot be mere coincidence.

I hope the state legislature and the people of Arkansas will join me in protesting this unauthorized transfer of wealth from taxpayers to the most well to do employees of the state. I further hope that the legislature will rescind these raises, censure those responsible, and take steps to see that this can never happen again. We must create a new political culture where these affronts to public service cannot occur. I am tired of business as usual at the State Capitol.

Unauthorized raises! Clark doesn't know who authorized them! And he's mad as hell. 

Well, let's look back at the appropriations that were authorized by the 89th General Assembly, of which Clark was a member. Here are the appropriations bills for: the Economic Development Commission, the Department of Correction, the Department of Human Services, Development Finance Authority and the Bank Department. Those include the five biggest raises among executive agencies listed by Clark. They were approved by the legislature, including line items for the salaries that Clark is now complaining about. On all of them, Clark voted "Aye." Same for the state commissions and other departments at the top of Clark's list: Fair Housing Commission, Teacher Retirement System, Game and Fish. I chose a few more at random and found the same: Clark voted to approve the raises he's now griping about. I'm happy to crowd-source this if folks want to check on more. 

None of this is to comment on the raises themselves. Ultimately the decision about whether to use the line-item maximum is up to individual agencies and the governor's office. Maybe you think the raises were necessary, maybe not. But Clark is up in arms about who authorized them. The answer to that is clear: Alan Clark. 

See full press release from Clark after the jump. Note the gratuitous hyping of Garland County Justice of the Peace Mickey Gates, who is rumored to be eyeing Bruce Westerman's seat in the Arkansas House. 

It appears it pays to be at the top of the food chain in state government. Literally. During the 89th General Assembly in the spring of 2013 the state legislature authorized a 2% cola (cost of living adjustment) for state employees. But it appears someone else has authorized larger raises for 49 department heads and executives in state government. With salaries averaging $118,719.51 each it would not appear that this group was underpaid. But they received an average raise of almost $10,000 ($9600.54) each or almost 10% (8.9%) this fiscal year beginning July 1, 2013. And what is the total bill to the state? It is almost half a million dollars ($480,026.78) per year. When you add other matching benefit costs the state must pay like retirement and FICA it is well over half a million dollars per year in cost to taxpayers.

Using the 2% cola that was authorized these employees would have received 5 and a half times the raise of a person earning $20,000 or $10/hour ($2200 versus $400). But with the huge unapproved raises their raise is almost half the annual salary of the person earning $10/hour. That is interesting in times when the news media is continuously talking about the rich getting richer. Now we know how.

I do not know who authorized these raises. A study of these employees and who they report to could prove interesting, however. It would probably also be of interest to study campaign finance reports and see where these 49 names pop up and look for a pattern. There is a possible windfall of half a million dollars a year that could go somewhere to influence the political agenda and elections. That is a real incentive to look the other way.

I do not wish to disparage any individual on this list. I have interacted with several and they seem to be good and decent people. This list as a whole however does not say good things about state government. Senator Bryan King, Senate Chair of the Joint Audit Committee has crafted legislation to stop this in the future. I am cosponsoring that legislation. We must not allow this type of behavior to continue.

Giving credit where credit is due, this information might not have been discovered without the aid of Justice of the Peace Mickey Gates of Garland County and State Senator Bryan King. Justice Gates and I served together on the Garland County Quorum Court. He had reminded me how we had discovered years ago certain Garland County elected officials were taking money appropriated in their budgets and using it for unauthorized pay increases. He suggested I look into the same thing in state government. In a conversation with Senator King he confirmed that could be happening. When I asked staff to research this I expected we would find 1 or 2. I hoped we would find none. It is shocking to find 49. This appears to be an organized effort. 49 cannot be mere coincidence.

I hope the state legislature and the people of Arkansas will join me in protesting this unauthorized transfer of wealth from taxpayers to the most well to do employees of the state. I further hope that the legislature will rescind these raises, censure those responsible, and take steps to see that this can never happen again. We must create a new political culture where these affronts to public service cannot occur. I am tired of business as usual at the State Capitol.The departments, positions, and employees are documented in the attachment with appropriated budgets and actual salaries for the last 3 years. They are listed in order from the largest annual raise received to the smallest.

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