Favorite

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.”

 

Favorite

Sign up for the Daily Update email

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Now, the main event

    I write Tuesday morning, before polls close on primary and judicial election contests.
    • May 24, 2018
  • Police identify remains as those of Ebby Steppach

    KARK/Fox 16 reports that Little Rock police have identified skeletal remains found Tuesday in a west Little Rock park as those of Ebby Steppach, the 17-year-old who's been missing since her car was found in that park abandoned in 2015.
    • May 23, 2018
  • UAMS presents balanced budget

    UAMS, pressed by financial problems for several years, told the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees today that it had a $1.5 billion operating budget that doesn't call for deficit spending.
    • May 23, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017
  • Along the civil rights trail

    A convergence of events in recent days signaled again how far we have come and how far we have yet to go in civil rights.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • The Oval outhouse

    One thing all Americans finally can agree upon is that public discourse has coarsened irretrievably in the era of Donald Trump and largely at his instance.
    • Jan 18, 2018

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Now, the main event

    I write Tuesday morning, before polls close on primary and judicial election contests.
    • May 24, 2018
  • Are you being served?

    These aren't good times for confidence in public servants.

    • Mar 22, 2018
  • Send in the segs

    The state Board of Education last week rejected requests from Camden Fairview, Hope, Lafayette County and Junction City to be exempt from the state law requiring students to be able to freely transfer between school districts.
    • Mar 15, 2018
  • More »

Most Viewed

  • Now, the main event

    I write Tuesday morning, before polls close on primary and judicial election contests.
  • Like wrestling

    So what's it going to be, America: a democratic republic, or Trumpistan? A nation governed by the rule of law, or an oversized kleptocracy, whose maximum leader uses the decayed shell of government to punish his political enemies and reward friends and family?

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Like wrestling

    • Great reminder/summary. So much happens in Trumpistan that last week's news seems like months ago…

    • on May 23, 2018
  • Re: Talking baseball

    • I loved Bill Elder "calling" the Travs games on the road. He did it by…

    • on May 22, 2018
  • Re: Talking baseball

    • 1090 was Little Rock's own Mighty 1090 KAAY, the greatest radio station ever. But i…

    • on May 22, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation