by Max Brantley
Republicans have requested an attorney general's opinion on the legality of making Broadway permanent director. They've complained that Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has delayed too long issuing an opinion. He's off the hook now on mootness, I presume, though the office has told Jason Tolbert he'll still produce the opinion, likely on Monday.
Here's Broadway's letter to the governor. He said he'd serve as interim (which the law clearly allows) until a permanent director is chosen. He also said he'd be willing to continue to work as deputy director. Broadway, who had no job experience on a college campus, worked extensively in education issues as a legislator. He's a well-liked politician, a not insignificant quality in a job that, ultimately, is more political than regulatory. Arkansas colleges and universities enjoy a great deal of independence constitutionally. The Higher Education Department is often more advisory than regulatory. However, laws do matter. Don't they?
Broadway didn't cite the legal controversy in his decision. He said the additional time required in the job took time away from his wife, Debbie, who has multiple sclerosis. He said he and his wife decided that "new challenges" in that battle were where they need to "focus our collective energies."
Matt DeCample, spokesman for Gov. Beebe, said, "The governor has known for a couple of weeks this was coming. He fully supports Shane’s decision and understands it. In the end, family trumps the rest."
DeCample said the governor still believed Broadway was qualified to serve, though if the attorney general had opined otherwise, "he would have taken his name down and a search would have started." Beebe has no other name to put forward for the job. "He's fine with the Higher Education board conducting the search. We're glad Shane is willing to stay on as interim while that occurs."
David Leech, chairman of the Higher Education Coordinating Board, issued this statement:
“We appreciate the work Shane Broadway has done over the last six months in leading ADHE. He came in at a critical time to lead the department through the legislative session and has worked to build a collaborative relationship with our colleges and universities and the ADHE staff. The agency also accomplished its goal ahead of time to process this year’s scholarship applications, and we have also seen several of our successful initiatives renewed and became one of only three states to receive a perfect score on the Complete College America grant. I appreciate his leadership in the recently announced initiative of the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet, STEM Works and just this past week we were notified of an award for the YOUniversal Mobile Application from the Center for Digital Education.
“Shane had a heartfelt conversation with me on Tuesday and has since visited with each of the board members individually about the right choice for his family and how those obligations impact the agency. We support his decision and appreciate his serving as interim director. His knowledge of the legislative process, his ability to bring about consensus and his incredible work ethic are invaluable to higher education in Arkansas and moving it forward.
“The board will work with staff to put together a search committee and process in the coming days and weeks to find a director to work alongside ADHE’s competent senior leadership and staff in meeting the goals set by the governor for doubling the number of degree holders in the state and creating a skilled workforce, making Arkansas a viable choice for business and industry.”