Gov. Sarah Sanders has nominated Lindsey Wallace to be the new secretary of the Arkansas Department of Corrections, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
Assuming she’s confirmed by the state Board of Corrections, Wallace will take over a department embroiled in a constitutional power struggle between the board and the governor’s office. Statutory changes by the Legislature during the 2023 regular session purported to move the corrections secretary under the direct control of the governor, rather than the corrections board. The board argued that the changes were unconstitutional and sued, resulting in a preliminary injunction from Circuit Judge Patti James that kept the secretary under the control and supervision of the board. That case is still pending, and is likely to wind up in the state Supreme Court before it is resolved.
Sanders said in today’s press release that she made the nomination after meeting with board chairman Benny Magness yesterday afternoon and after speaking “with each member of the Board of Corrections.”
Potential violations of the open meetings provisions of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act notwithstanding, Sanders’ willingness to discuss this appointment with the board members beforehand represents a stark change in approach from the governor. After all, in December, the governor was publicly calling on the chairman to resign, saying in a letter to Magness that the board was “incapable of rational, reasonable, or fiscally responsible decision making under your leadership.”
Magness issued the following statement through a spokesperson Thursday:
I appreciate Governor Sanders taking the time to meet with me yesterday and for the nomination of Lindsay Wallace as Secretary of the Department of Corrections. The board will take action on the governor’s nomination as soon as we can get all members present for a meeting.
Wallace replaces former state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, who resigned on Tuesday, less than a week after the board appointed him as “interim executive.” Williams stepped down after the attorney general argued in a letter that only the governor could appoint someone to the secretary position. The board had been without a day-to-day chief executive since December, when the board first suspended Sanders’ chosen corrections secretary, Joe Profiri.
Wallace, who has served as chief of staff at the Department of Corrections since August 2020, currently earns $157,500 per year. While she will certainly get a raise as secretary, there’s no word yet as to what her salary will be. Profiri earned about $210,000 per year in the role.
Wallace, a Malvern native, graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law in 2008. She resides in Greenbrier, though department policy generally requires that the Secretary of Corrections live in department-provided housing.