UPDATED: Blue Hog Report: How lobbyist Eric Munson landed high-paying state job with questionable qualifications | Arkansas Blog

UPDATED: Blue Hog Report: How lobbyist Eric Munson landed high-paying state job with questionable qualifications


ERIC MUNSON: Gets help from governor for $90,000 job.
  • ERIC MUNSON: Gets help from governor for $90,000 job.
Blue Hog Report has another find from the state bureaucracy:  It details how long-time lobbyist Eric Munson was hired for a recently enhanced salary to be director of the Governor's Developmental Disabilities Council, a job for which his resume indicates no apparent subject-related qualifications.

Where the job once paid $50,000, it now pays $90,000.

The thrust of Blue Hog's report is that Gov. Asa Hutchinson supported the pay increase and Munson's choice by the Council, which is a joint federal-state operation that is supposed to operate free of political interference. 

Munson has no professional background or education in developmental disabilities. He has, however, been a campaign contributor to Hutchinson. He did work for a time for Secretary of State Mark Martin. He also worked for Mike Huckabee. And his resume describes his political work for Sen. John Boozman and Reps. Tim Griffin and Rick Crawford.

Munson's past as a lobbyist and Republican-era small business administration official also includes a stint with the National Federation of Independent Business, a Republican-oriented lobby against taxes, regulation and the like. It is of a piece with many other Hutchinson administration appointments to have an advocate for smaller government hungering to get a piece of it for himself, the primary qualification being devoted Republican Party service and campaign contributions.

(A Tea Party Republican from Springdale, Ralph Hudson, favored by Hutchinson with a cushy deputy slot at the Labor Department, spent some time on Twitter yesterday defending Hutchinson's $87 million corporate welfare handout to Lockheed Martin against my criticism. It's a benefit to all Arkansas, said Hudson, who was lobbying for the governor on a day of  leave to attend a grandchild's pre-K graduation. That's the Tea Party for you. Cushy government job. Corporate welfare OK. But not a penny for the undeserving working poor.)

Blue Hog says a number of required steps in the process for filling the Disabilities job were not followed. He infers from the actions, including statements by Council Chair Matthew Glass, that Hutchinson was behind the appointment. Among Blue Hog's questions:

3. Why is Munson so special that the governor not only gets him into a position for which he is not qualified, but also feels the need to raise the position’s salary by $40k?

4. How disingenuous is Glass’s saying that the increased salary is needed to attract good candidates, and that attracting those candidates was the sole reason Glass started asking to increase the salary generally, then turning and taking the governor’s proposed increase that comes only by accepting a candidate who didn’t even meet the minimum qualifications?

5. The last several EDs and interim EDs have been women; does it seem odd to anyone else that the governor decided to increase the salary by $40k and then hire a specific man for the job?

Blue Hog quotes Chair Glass from a tape recording of the meeting that led to the hiring:

As it turned out, Governor Hutchinson’s office has literally bent over backwards and offered us something on a silver platter. So…the governor’s office has agreed to raise the salary–the legislature has to approve this on Tuesday morning, but the governor’s office–the governor–has signed an executive order. It’s waiting to be presented to the legislature on Tuesday morning, which I’ll come over and testify to the Joint Budget Personnel Committee, to raise the salary level to $90,000, to hire a guy named Eric Munson to be our new executive director.

I had the opportunity to go spend a couple hours with Eric and kinda call around and check up on just kinda some references for the guy, and there’s just absolutely no way we can pass it up.

I've commented previously — and updated — on the quality of the governor's appointments. Clearly more updating is needed.

UPDATE: I spoke with Glass. He insists the appointment was not political and that Munson was well-qualified by experience working in and with government agencies to manage a government agency. Glass added that the process to increase the pay and replace a director began last September and he'd won approval from the Beebe administration for an increase in pay for the job to a level in line with amounts paid for similar jobs around the country. Glass noted that the Council that hired Munson is comprised almost entirely of Democratic administration appointees. He said Munson's name had been suggested by Hutchinson's chief of staff Michael Lamoureux when he said he was looking for someone to correct "chaos" in the agency (including a critical audit). But he said he got no pressure to hire Munson and proper procedures were followed. He said he talked with Munson and liked him and his background and so did other members of the Council. Glass added that he thought Campbell should have disclosed that he was a lawyer for a Disabilities Council employee who'd been fired by Munson since he took office. Glass said Campbell's representation of events wasn't accurate. Glass said he served voluntarily, largely out of his interest in his own developmentally disabled child, and wanted to do what was best for the people the Council serves. He agreed the job wasn't posted, but said that was because of "the emergency situation we were in."

UPDATE II: Campbell said he briefly represented a friend who had filed a grievance against Munson before Munson fired him. He said the friend decided not to pursue the grievance and that ended his representation. He predicted Munson would role that open job into his own and seek a pay increase July 1. He disputes the "emergency" nature of the hiring and notes that Glass had told the council he'd run out of time for the pay increase request before the Beebe administration ended. (I should have said originally that Glass said Beebe's office said it was OK with the pay raise but had emphasized it would still require legislative approval, too.)

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