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story.lead_photo.caption Leon Jones Jr. is shown in this photo.

A legislative panel on Tuesday endorsed creating new positions in two agencies to allow the jobholders to receive higher pay.

The Legislative Council's personnel subcommittee supported a request from the Department of Inspector General to create an Arkansas Fair Housing Commission executive director post with a higher pay range than the previous executive director position.

The position would pay between $96,960 and $140,592 a year to accommodate the $136,079 annual salary of recently appointed Executive Director Leon Jones, who previously was the director of the state Department of Labor.

The move would eliminate the current commission executive director position, which has a salary range of $86,887 to $125,986 a year.

The subcommittee also backed a Department of Agriculture request to surrender five vacant positions in return for creating two new positions -- a director of livestock and poultry post with a salary range of $108,110 to $147,200 a year, and an information systems manager with a salary range of $71,704 to $103,970 a year, said Tony Robinson, personnel review administrator for the Bureau of Legislative Research.

The Legislative Council will take final action on the proposals Friday.

The Agriculture Department is trying to bring the livestock and poultry position up to the other administrative levels within the agency and wants an information systems manager position because of increased information technology demands, Robinson said.

Robinson told the subcommittee that the change in the Fair Housing Commission's administrative post is designed to allow for Jones' existing salary, which is above the previous salary cap.

Kay Barnhill, administrator of the state Office of Personnel Management, said after the meeting that Jones was placed in an extra-help position to accommodate his current salary.

Jones was paid $134,068 a year as the Department of Labor director and has since received a merit increase. Barnhill said he would not receive another pay increase this fiscal year because of the change.

Jones replaced Carol Johnson as the housing commission's executive director. She left effective June 30 after 14 years in the job to be an administrator of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries' civil-rights division. Johnson's salary was $93,485 a year.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson's reorganization of state government consolidated the number of agencies reporting to the governor from 42 to 15. The overhaul shifted the Department of Labor into the state Department of Labor and Licensing, which is headed by former state Department of Workforce Services Director Darryl Bassett.

The Fair Housing Commission was folded into the new Department of Inspector General.

The commission was created in 2001 and is a quasi-judicial regulatory agency that works with the federal government to enforce fair-housing and fair-lending laws.

The Agriculture Department's livestock and poultry director would oversee a staff of 110 employees responsible for the implementation of laws and regulations designed to protect and promote the livestock and poultry industries, Barnhill said in a letter to the personnel subcommittee.

The department is proposing to surrender five vacant positions equivalent to $173,000 a year. The poultry and livestock director would be paid about $108,000 a year, and the information systems manager would be paid about $71,000 a year, Barnhill said.

The department plans to shift Patrick Fisk, deputy director of livestock and poultry, into the director position and would not hire a deputy director of livestock and poultry, department spokesman Brett Dawson said after the subcommittee's meeting. Fisk's salary would be increased from $89,881 a year to $108,110 a year, Dawson said.

The department previously had a director of livestock and poultry position that was equivalent to the other director positions within the department, he said.

"Restoration of the director of livestock and poultry position aligns that position with the other directors within the department," Dawson said.

The department plans to advertise the information systems manager post for applicants, he said.

Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward told lawmakers that "when looking at the governor's goals that he has across state government, but for us in particular, we are considerably behind in our technological capabilities."

"The majority of the things that we do within the department is paper-based, so having this [information technology] component [will] come in ... and help us catch up, help us get in 2019 in how we process and how we do our program," he said.

"A large amount of the transformation and the savings that we'll see are going to be coming from technology improvements within the department," Ward said.

Sen. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, asked Barnhill whether she is tracking the state's shifting of employees among different parts of state government under the governor's reorganization plan.

Barnhill said that "we just implemented transformation on July 1, and that's putting all the agencies together," adding that state officials will have detailed information later.

"I would like to request that maybe when they come before us each month, they bring us a copy of that so we can keep with it as we go to make sure somewhere down the line we can look back and say all these moving parts actually did translate into savings," Hammer said.

Metro on 08/21/2019

Print Headline: Arkansas legislative panel backs positions' creation

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Archived Comments

  • MBAIV
    August 21, 2019 at 6:59 a.m.

    Silly me. I thought that the big reorg in state gov't would mean that in the Department of Ag the various sub-agencies would utilize a central information systems division rather than continuing to pay for a bunch of individual groups. But, no. No savings there.

  • Skeptic1
    August 21, 2019 at 8:37 a.m.

    More pork at the expense of disproportionately high taxes for us, more of the same.

  • GOHOGS19
    August 21, 2019 at 1:41 p.m.

    what a joke on the Fair housing job. Instead of demoting the guy into a job that pays what it pays they
    keep his salary the same. unreal.

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