Arkansas Senate President Pro Tem Michael Lamoureux sent the Tweet above moments ago, signaling a resolution of the matter of employing a four-person staff for a non-existent lieutenant governor. They will all quit June 30.
Lamoureux confirms the Tweet. I’ve sent additional inquiries to him and staff for more information. For example, when is their last full day? Do staff members plan to claim accumulated leave and holiday time? Not that they have had much to do. He had said earlier that the staff members were looking for other work.
Mark Darr resigned from the office Feb. 1 over misuse of state and campaign money. By agreement with the legislature, in the form of pending legislation, Gov. Mike Beebe will not call a special election to fill the office for the balance of this year.
But the staff of four, at an annual cost of $267,000, has stayed on. Lamoureux declared that the staff reported to him, since he fills in when the lieutenant governor isn’t presiding in the Senate, the only official duty held by the office except to serve in the governor’s absence from the state. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel differed with that interpretation. Lamoureux killed legislation by Sen. Bruce Maloch to reduce office funding to enough to keep one person on the payroll after June 30. That drew some criticism here and in other scattered places.
My point has been that employing four people at good pay — $33,000 to $75,000 a year — plus good state health insurance and plenty of days off when there is no work to be done seemed like Republican cronyism from a legislature fighting insurance coverage for the working poor, a minimum wage increase and other measures to benefit working people. Bruce Campbell, chief of staff in the office, his son-in-law is Republican Joint Budget Co-Chair Duncan Baird, a candidate for state treasurer, and he’s long held Republican patronage jobs. Campbell also turned over to the auditor for payments some of the expense vouchers for which Darr was paid by the state for what were later determined to be personal expenses. Other staff members include Josh Curtis, paid $57,000 a year as director of government relations. He’s a candidate for re-election to the Saline Quorum Court.
UPDATE: I got some e-mailed responses to questions from Lamoureux.
He said he didn’t encourage the resignations, though he did discuss “how this situation was likely to develop.” He said he didn’t know yet how accrued leave, if any would be used. He said he was unsure on phones and staffing for the final six months of the year. He said he hadn’t changed his mind on an earlier opinion that constituent service justified keeping the staff in place. “No, I decided the constituents that called there would not be assisted.”