by Max Brantley
Then he went and spent more than $60,000 of money that wasn't his to spend to hire political pals to work for the state Board of Apportionment, controlled by two Democrats. Particularly embarrassing — if you presume Martin has shame — was his purchase of a new car for the board. Republicans have a live lawsuit over state cars purchased for state officials and Martin has a car pool of nearly two dozen vehicles already.
Here's another little expenditure underway in the secretary of state's office suite.
After extended wrangling with his office on Freedom of Information Act requests, I finally got documents related to a $54,500 contract Martin's office has signed with the Soderquist Center at John Brown University for a "values-based strategic planning process." The center lists its mission as "Equipping People with the transforming power of ethical leadership."
The expense is to include an "on-site visit" in Little Rock to interview staff members and a retreat for top staffers at the Greystone Estate in Rogers. Travel expenses — including accommodations, meals and mileage — for the Soderquist team will be extra.
According to the contract and e-mail I received in response to my FOI request, Soderquist employees have already begun interviewing Martin's employees and asking them to answer a staff questionnaire. Sounds a little New Agey/Democratey to me. You can imagine GOP Chair Doyle Webb's comments had a Democratic secretary of state spent $54,000 plus on a staff survey and retreat when anybody could have told Martin the secretary of state must maintain the Capitol and grounds, maintain certain state records and have a strong role in election processes. And presumably he knew that before running. And had some ideas about imparting that knowledge to those on the staff who thought they were there for some other reason.
NOTE: A reader questions my spelling of strategery. How quickly we forget. The Bush-era catch word seemed appropriate in the circumstance.
Take, for example, one question from the employee survey:
What is the secretary of state's office best known for?
Uh, I dunno, buying cars?
Can you please describe to me what your role is with the office of the secretary of state?
What words or values would you say describe 'who you are' or 'articulate what you stand for' at the office of secretary of state?
How do you and your team impact the citizens of the state of Arkansas?
What would happen to the state of Arkansas (citizens, government, state house, etc.) if your organization stopped doing business?
If you could change the services of the secretary of state's office, what would add and/or eliminate? Why?
What do you want to get out of the strategic planning process?
Do you have any additional comments you would like to share with the Soderquist Center that could help us as we look to your future?