The faux retirement story broken here yesterday thanks to information from Rep. Allen Kerr (R-Little Rock) appears to be growing legs. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel continues to receive inquiries. As attorney for the Public Employees Retirement System, McDaniel may have the duty to see if elected public officials legally terminated their public employment in office before drawing retirement. And, if they did not, he'll have to figure out what to do about it.
Anecdotal evidence is growing that elected officials -- particularly at the county level - have "retired" by means of skipping a few paychecks while continuing to exercise the powers of their office. Then they'd "resume" the office with both a retirement check and the regular paycheck. An opinion McDaniel issued this week raised legal questions about such a process. Offices must be truly vacated for an elected official to legally retire.
Some elected officials have legally retired (after standing unopposed for nomination in party primaries) and left office for a short period, only to resume the office again on a new term the following January. That's legal. But many elected officials have kept the practice secret, for fear of riling taxpayers who might object to the double dip, and not actually vacated their offices.
McDaniel issued this further statement today:
“Today, for the first time, I was provided with some specific information regarding this matter. I must admit that I am surprised by some of what I have learned, but I am not prepared to comment on any specifics at this time. My intention is to gather all of the information that I can and evaluate the State's options. It appears to be a complex situation, and there may be no easy answers. Nevertheless, I will be personally involved, and we will work to find an appropriate course of action.”
This is politically sensitive, to put it mildly. County officials are overwhelmingly Democratic in Arkansas and an important cog in campaign machinery. The longer an official has been in office -- and thus more likely to be retirement eligible -- the more important the cog.