Leadership change at Public Defender Commission | Arkansas Blog

Leadership change at Public Defender Commission

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In answer to several who've asked: All I've been able to shake out of the Public Defender Commission about some recent developments there is a brief e-mail from Chairman Jerry Larkowski that a press release is coming this afternoon.

Didi Sallings, who has been executive director of the Commission and an employee since 1993, is now listed on the state's transparency website as a "public defender I" at a salary of $67,626. She did not return my call.

The public defender system represents indigent defendants statewide.

CORRECTION: The public defender I salary I listed for Sallings actually applied to another employee with the same last name. Didi Sallings' new position hasn't been posted, but is expected to pay near $90,000, a reduction from a figure listed at $106,820 in the most recent listing.

UPDATE: Here's the news in a statement from Larkowski:

Sallings stepped down today as executive director, but will continue in a new staff position to handle appellate work. Gregg Parrish will serve as interim director until a permanent successor is chosen.

Larkowski said, in part:

The demands of the job being what they are, and the toll that it can take on a person, a number of folks who have been very close to Didi over the years have recently become concerned about Didi the person much more than Didi the executive director. After much thought, counsel, and encouragement, Didi, on her own, has asked the commissioners to allow her to stand down as executive director and find a way that she can continue to serve this commission and our purposes. As the chair, I insisted that we honor that request, and I have spent the past few weeks trying to find a way to make that happen.

The full release follows.

NEWS RELEASE

The Arkansas Public Defender Commission was created in the legislative session of 1993. The commission hired as its first executive director a young lawyer named Didi Sallings.

Starting from scratch, Didi began to assemble a staff, a team of lawyers, and a statewide system with the task of defending the indigent who were charged in criminal matters. In the past twenty years, Didi has been instrumental in brain-storming, developing, and implementing new ideas and processes designed to improve the representation that the law requires this commission to provide. With her efforts, criminal defense practices, inside and outside this public agency, has improved substantially. Didi’s fingerprints are all over that progress.

Today our commission employs over 300 people statewide. With 75 counties to keep an eye on, ever-changing caselaw and statutes, developing trends in our field, both regionally and nationwide, and, now, annual legislative sessions, the job of executive director of any state agency can become grueling. Didi has persevered. The demands of the job being what they are, and the toll that it can take on a person, a number of folks who have been very close to Didi over the years have recently become concerned about Didi the person much more than Didi the
executive director. After much thought, counsel, and encouragement, Didi, on her own, has asked the commissioners to allow her to stand down as executive director and find a way that she can continue to serve this commission and our purposes. As the chair, I insisted that we honor that request, and I have spent the past few weeks trying to find a way to make that happen.

Effective immediately, Didi is no longer our executive director. The commissioners have unanimously accepted her resignation and have asked commission attorney Gregg Parrish to serve as the interim director until someone is chosen to fill the job on a permanent basis. He has agreed to do so. Didi will begin a new attorney position recently added to the Commission to do appellate work.

I have told Didi that the historical and institutional knowledge that she holds in her mind is of great value to this commission and the succeeding directors, and if she would remain available for advice and counsel, the work of this commission will only be better. She has agreed to do so. The commissioners thank her for her many years of service and will assist her in this transition as her work for the less fortunate in our society will go on.

Jerry Larkowski, APDC Commission Chair

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