Noted on a Legislative Council committee agenda this afternoon: A big pay raise for a change to full-time employment for Dr. James Bledsoe, wife of Republican state Sen. Cecile Bledsoe and father of Arkansas Surgeon General Gregory Bledsoe.
The state Health Department has asked that Bledsoe go from part-time to full-time director of the state medical trauma system. This will increase his pay to just under $180,000.
The letter requesting the change said the role was previously handled by contractors, but the Health Department “has determined that using a full-time employee will provide more efficient service in this role than contractors.
This follows controversy, reported by Leslie Newell Peacock in a Times cover story, about the Health Department ending a contract with a foundation that worked to provided education for doctors in handling trauma cases. They thought they were doing a good job.
This job change normally would have been done without public notice, but Legislative Council approval was required because Bledsoe is spouse of a legislator.
Bledsoe, who’d been a surgeon for 46 years, was hired out of retirement as a part-time Health Department consultant on emergency medical services in 2015 for $85,000.
Sen. Bledsoe styles herself a budget hawk. To name a couple, she’s a longtime foe of government spending for Obamacare. Though a so-called family values politician, she also was the controlling vote against paid maternity leave for state employees. Charity begins at the Bledsoe home. The cost of that benefit would be negligible to the state — $354,000 by a badly flawed state analysis, which is still well less than the Bledsoe family is costing the state every year — a half-million or more in pay, perks and expenses.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson recommended the pay raise to the legislative committee.
UPDATE: My source says a lack of a quorum prevented approval of this today. Mrs Bledsoe was in the room. Some legislators reportedly don’t want to be part of this.