New bosses are going to sweep into five of seven statewide offices in January — Republicans replacing Democrats in four of five cases and a new Republican for the open position of lieutenant governor.
New officers will hire their people and politically connected existing staff members will be at risk. That is a given. That is fair. That is how the system works. Doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Employees in the state treasurer’s office got a visit yesterday from the transition team for Dennis Milligan. There are 25 employees in the office (though 33 are authorized). Charles Robinson, the retired legislative auditor who has been serving without pay as appointed treasurer since Martha Shoffner’s resignation following her bribery indictment, said the staff was informed that they’d have to submit a letter of resignation to Robinson by mid-December if they expected to be considered for jobs in the new administration. Robinson said he’d talked with the transition team and the letter now would be addressed, effective Jan. 13, to Dennis Milligan. Robinson didn’t want to be a part of that process.
Why a resignation letter for consideration of employment? I’m attempting to get an answer to that question. Robinson has the same impression — though he’s seeking a formal answer to be sure — that I do. If you submit a resignation letter and then aren’t offered a new job, you’ve left the job voluntarily and thus don’t qualify for unemployment benefits. UPDATE: A Workforce Services spokesman said the “letter itself” wouldn’t be a disqualifier for benefits. But that leaves open the question to whether a willful departure would do so. The spokesman emphasized that “workplace tactics” by an employer are outside Workforce Services’ jurisdiction.
UPDATE II: A further response to my questions from Becky Heflin at Workforce Services:
Assuming that the claimant qualifies monetarily for UI benefits, no determination can be made until both the claimant and the last employer are given the opportunity to provide information concerning the reasons for the separation. After gathering information from both the claimant and the last employer, if the information supports a finding that the claimant was forced to resign in order to be considered for new employment or, in the alternative, to be terminated, the resignation would not cause disqualification. In this scenario, the separation would be considered a resignation in lieu of certain discharge and be considered a discharge for UI purposes. In order for a discharge to be disqualifying, it must be for reasons that constitute “misconduct in connection with the work,” and in this scenario, there is no misconduct in connection with the work.
My initial question about the process to Jim Harris, who’s worked with Milligan in the circuit clerk’s office in Saline County and who’ll be one of his top staff members in Little Rock, got this response:
We will be making an announcement regarding our transition plan in the next couple of days. I will be send it to you that announcement.
Robinson said, by the way, that the practice of a requested resignation is not unheard of. I’ll be checking around with other offices — auditor, attorney general and governor — for what’s underway there. A transition team visited the attorney general’s office, I know, and its members included Julie Benafield Bowman, the former insurance commissioner. There are no staff members in the lieutenant governor’s office at the moment. Secretary of State Mark Martin and Land Commissioner John Thurston retained their offices.
Explaining the transition of the new treasury leadership, Robinson said, was Jason Brady. I haven’t confirmed it yet, but that’s presumably the Jason Brady who had various positions in the Huckabee gubernatorial administration. (Jim Harris is Mike Huckabee’s brother-in-law.) Brady for a time ran a state-financed office in Washington for Huckabee then worked for a time in the Huckabee presidential campaign in 2008. The Huckabee-era Jason Brady was linked — in an article by now Republican Sen. David Sanders — to a $10,000 contribution to a Huckabee-controlled fund from the family of a man who received clemency from Huckabee on a DWI charge. UPDATE: Two people confirm — though Brady didn’t respond to an e-mail — that Milligan’s Brady is Huckabee’s Brady.
Charles Robinson said the changes underway for his office were typical in changes of political leadership. But he added: “We do $18 billion worth of transactions in this office annually. We need to have people here to make sure those transactions are taken care of daily and reconciled. There will still have to be a professional side to office. I’d really like to see that continue.”
* GOVERNOR’S OFFICE: Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said things had been going smoothly with the Hutchinson transition team. Michael Lamoureux, who’ll be Asa Hutchinson’s chief of staff, has joined the state payroll at $112,095 a year. Many meetings have been held. No office-wide announcements have been made nor any required resignation letters. DeCample said the Beebe administration held over nine employees from the Huckabee administration. The governor’s office has 60 positions, but 44 are currently filled.
* AUDITOR’S OFFICE: Current Chief Deputy Peggy Gram said representatives of Andrea Lea, the new auditor, had interviewed all employees interested in continuing in their jobs and told them they’d be notified by Thanksgiving of decisions. No resignation letters were requested. The office has 36 employees. Four top employees are retiring. The others asked to be considered.
* ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE: This report from Aaron Sadler:
We are working with Attorney General-elect Rutledge to ensure as seamless a transition as possible. Attorney General McDaniel has provided Attorney General-elect Rutledge with an office here and we are consistently updating the team about ongoing issues. All current staff who wish to remain here have been asked to submit resumes and references, and it’s my understanding that the Attorney General-elect and her team will be interviewing each employee during the transition period.
MEANWHILE: The Milligan transition team announced a procedure to apply for jobs in the office (it’s unclear if this applies to people currently employed, but an employee in the treasurer’s office says it does not):
Treasurer-elect Dennis Milligan announced a process for those interested in applying for a job with his office.
Milligan said individuals interested in applying for a job should submit a resume and cover letter.
Milligan added individuals have several ways they can get the information to him.
They can: e-mail them to his transition team at: firstname.lastname@example.org or can mail resumes to the State Treasurer’s Office, % Transition team, State Capitol, 500 Woodlane Street, Suite 220, Little Rock, AR 72201.
Milligan said Treasurer Charles Robinson has given his volunteer transition team space in the Treasurer’s office to begin processing resumes and working on a transfer plan when Milligan is sworn into office on Tuesday, January 13, 2015, just eight weeks away.
Milligan said he has appointed Jim Harris, his current chief of staff in the Saline County Circuit Clerks office, as the lead contact for his transition team.