Funny thing that I should just get the June unemployment numbers from the Department of Workforce Services. One of the newly unemployed is the director of that department, Artee Williams.
Don’t cry for Mr. Williams.
He was separated from the department July 1 for 30 days so that he may be reappointed to the position by Gov. Mike Beebe and from then on draw both his regular pay ($136,601) and retirement pay, which is figured by a formula including years of service and his highest years of pay.
I couldn’t get anyone at Workforce Services to even confirm Williams was no longer director. I was referred to the governor’s office. Matt DeCample, spokesman for Gov. Beebe, confirmed that Williams is taking a 30-day breather and that the governor plans to reappoint him as workforce director. He said Williams was one of a number of long-term employees grandfathered in to be allowed to take the 30-day “retirement” option when the legislature extended the mandatory retirement period to 180 days in 2009. Legislation further tightened the process this year, with officials being forced to have true “terminations.” Williams’ e-mail no longer works, for example.
Those grandfathered in 2009 were long-time state employees who were already participating in a deferred retirement option plan. Employees had to have been employed 28 years to be eligible for the DROP program, which allows accumulation of retirement benefits in a tax-deferred account while an employee continues to work.
“We do intend to reappoint him,” DeCample said. “He’s someone we cannot lose.”
Might there be someone else capable — and cheaper — who could apply for the job if it were advertised? The governor’s office isn’t interested in that option. “He’s proven invaluable throughout the recession,” DeCample said, “and he’s taken a larger role than anyone in that position has. He’s done an exemplary job.”
State ranks are dotted with people already in double-dip positions, including, for example, Richard Weiss, director of the state Finance and Administration Department. The growth of the practice at all levels led to legislative criticism and a variety of legislation aimed at making it harder to achieve.
Williams was appointed to his current job by Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2004 and reappointed by Beebe in 2007. He has a long career in state government, including 20 years as personnel administrator for the Department of Finance and Administration. He first went to work for the state in April 1971, more than 40 years ago.