I ran into a state employee at the gym this morning, one of many looking with some trepidation to the future as the Asa Hutchinson administration — and a Republican-controlled government in every state elective office and legislative majority — takes control. She hopes to keep her job. She’s gone to the Hutchinson transition website to look at the state job application form there. She thought it intrusive. It delves into club memberships, letters to the editor, credit difficulties and whether an applicant might have been involved in controversial issues.
I took a look. Besides basic biographical and work history information, there’s a section headed Vetting.The questions are required to be answered with a yes or no and a “detailed explanation” if yes. Some follow along the lines of a few questions long used by applicants for gubernatorial appointments, but not on routine state job applications.
I’ve sent a question to a Hutchinson spokesman asking a response to the employee’s feeling that questions about such things as club memberships and letters to the editor are intrusive and, in the case of questions about “controversy,” subjective.
I’ve also asked for a response to the employee’s fear that the Hutchinson administration will have a political litmus test. (Again, in appointments to boards and commissions, this would not be unusual. For a routine state agency job it would be unusual, though political connections, of course, have always been helpful in state employment.) Raising questions about free speech activities is worrisome. Private business can make employment decisions based on speech it doesn’t like. Government can’t.
UPDATE: Though it’s not clear from the website, Hutchinson spokesman J.R. Davis said the deep vetting is intended for people applying for boards and commissions. There will be no political litmus test for state employment, he said. The list of choices on the application form include jobs in the governor’s office and state agencies (the Higher Education, Health and Heritage Departments, to name three.)
Following are the “vetting” questions:
Business / Lobbying: Describe any business relationship, dealing or financial transaction which you have had during the last five years, whether for yourself, on behalf of a client, or acting as an agent which you believe may constitute an appearance of impropriety or could result in a potential conflict of interest in the position to which you want to be appointed. If none, please state.
Are you or have you at any time, been a registered lobbyist?
Citations: Have you ever been cited for a breach of ethics for unprofessional conduct, or been named in a complaint to any court, administrative agency, regulatory body, professional association, disciplinary committee, or other professional group?
Convictions: Have you ever been convicted of or entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere or forfeited collateral for any criminal violation other than a minor traffic offense? (Minor traffic offenses do not include State offenses of operating under the influence of liquor, operating while impaired, reckless driving or the equivalent offenses in other states)
Current Charges: Are you now under charges for any violation of law?
Opposition / Associations: Do you have any expectations of any group or individual voicing concern about your possible appointment?
Delinquencies: Are you delinquent on any federal, state, or local debt? (Include delinquencies for income, property, or other taxes, governmental loans, overpayment of benefits, required payments into or under governmental programs, and other debts or required payments to the government plus any defaults on or under loans which are or where guaranteed, insured, or subsidized by any unit of government.)
Issues: In the last five years, have you been publicly identified, in person or by organizational membership, with a particularly controversial national, state or local issue?
Submission of Views: In the last five years, have you submitted oral or written views to any governmental authority, whether executive or legislative, or to the news media on any particularly controversial issue other than in an official governmental capacity?
Agency Proceedings / Civil Litigation: In the last five years, have you been, or are you presently a party of interest in any administrative agency proceeding or civil litigation, including any action regarding a professional license?
Civil Litigation of Affiliates and Family: In the last five years, has any business in which you, your spouse or partner, any member of your household or other close family members or business associate are or were any officer, director or partner been a party to any administrative agency proceeding or civil litigation relevant to the position to which you have been appointed? (With respect to this question, you need only consider proceedings and litigation that occurred while you, your spouse, close family member or business associate were an officer of that business.)
Legal Proceedings: Have you ever been a party or otherwise involved in any legal proceedings – civil or criminal? Include all legal proceedings in which you were a party of interest, a material witness, the subject of a complaint, were named as a co- conspirator or co-respondent, and any grand jury investigation in which you figured as a subject, or in which you appeared as a witness. Do not list proceedings in which you were merely a nominal party where no allegations of wrongdoing were alleged against you.
Charges / Associates: Has a criminal charge been brought against any firm or organization during your affiliation with it?
Discrimination: Has a complaint of discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, national origin, age or handicap ever been filed against you or against any firm or organization during your affiliation with it?
Credit History: Have you ever experienced credit difficulties? Have you ever filed for bankruptcy, or encountered other severe financial difficulties?
Controversy: Is there anything in your personal or professional life that would cause controversy for you or the governor during a public review of your candidacy or your service as a gubernatorial appointee?
Affiliations: Please list each organization, club, association, or group that you are, or have been a member of, in the past five years.