Sheriff makes good
“Passailaigue said he believes that all law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical service employees ‘are underpaid.' ” And Ernie Passailaigue is doing what he can to correct the situation.
The executive director of the new state Lottery Commission has been hiring help on a pay scale rare in Arkansas. His latest acquisition is a security director, Lance Huey, who's resigning as sheriff of Grant County to accept the job. Huey made $46,300 as sheriff; he'll make $115,644 for securing the lottery. Andy Griffith would have left Mayberry in a minute for compensation like this. (Mayberry is not Grant County, admittedly. Natives say that only extreme reward could lure a man away from what Witt Stephens called “This blessed plot.” Still, a 150 percent pay raise is a lot of consolation.)
The Huey hire has gotten the attention even of legislators who've previously defended Passailaigue and the Lottery Commission. When Passailaigue himself and a couple of his South Carolina associates signed on with the Arkansas lottery at fabulous salaries, Arkansans were told that such pay was necessary to get the right people to run the game. Some didn't know any better than to believe it. But people know what their local sheriff is worth, and they're sure it's something less than $115,000. They're mentioning this to their elected representatives. House Speaker Robbie Wills of Conway, a big backer of the lottery legislation, professes concern over the lottery's employment practices. Sen. David Johnson of Little Rock, co-chairman of the legislature's lottery oversight committee, says he'll support a bill to reduce the salaries in the 2010 legislative session.
Arkansans may have lowered their standards to accept a lottery, but they can still resist the old politics that demands a large private-interest share of every public program. If popular resentment forces delay in the lottery's opening, OK. We've been lotteryless a long time. We can stand a few more days.
When Sonia Sotomayor is confirmed, two-thirds of the members of the United States Supreme Court will be Catholics, a remarkable statistic for a nation whose population is only one-fourth Catholic, and one of whose principles — the separation of church and state — is rejected by the Catholic hierarchy. (Sotomayor supporters have assured nervous civil libertarians that she's not much of a Catholic, and therefore unlikely to vote to re-outlaw abortion, or to give public money to parochial schools. Here is a species previously unreported by the American media — the non-devout Catholic.) Non-Catholic Christians may soon have to ask that a “Protestant seat” be reserved on the court, the way a “Jewish seat” is. An “Unbelievers seat” would probably be too much to ask for.