Leader Blues

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> How you can make big bucks at home

Does Arkansas need two people to head the state’s emergency management agency?

Right now we have Wayne Ruthven, the outgoing head of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, still collecting $6,600 a month while he supposedly works out of his home till the end of the year, and John Brackin, the interim chief, making about the same amount of money.

Talk about fleecing the taxpayers: That’s a lot of bucks for not a lot of emergency management, if you ask us — about $3,500 a week for two fellows with not much to do. Because whenever there’s an emergency, like the time hurricane refugees streamed into Arkansas, the governor takes center stage and pretty much runs the show.

Why not give the governor a small raise and eliminate the $79,000 a year emergency management post?
Col. Ruthven was pretty much absent when people fleeing hurricanes Katrina and Rita came to Arkansas, looking for food, shelter, clothes and jobs — and Mike Huckabee was all over the place, welcoming the refugees, but Ruthven, much like Michael Brown, the disgraced former FEMA director, was nowhere to be seen, which may explain why the retired colonel is on the way out.

When you have a hands-on governor like Mike Huckabee, who needs a director of emergency services? Who needs an interim director?
I’m all for saving the taxpayers their hard-earned dollars, especially when it comes to duplication like one director working alone at home and an interim director also collecting a hefty paycheck. Give the money back to the taxpayers or give it to the hurricane refugees.

Ruthven has done well on the public payroll. When he was hired as Jacksonville police chief in 2002, he was paid very well here, too, although he lacked the credentials for the job and held the post for just 18 months till the emergency management position opened up for him.

It appeared he’d stay there for a long time — he was said to be a favorite of Mrs. Huckabee’s — but, like FEMA’s Brownie, Ruthven’s future was not in emergency management after all, at least not at the state level.

Ruthven, who lives in North Little Rock, says he still checks in with his office in Conway via e-mail.
“I still have full connectivity with the office,” Ruthven insists.

Not only that, but the former Jacksonville police chief will represent Arkansas at several emergency conferences, at state expense.
Not surprisingly, state legislators want to know what Ruthven could be doing at home that’s so important that he can collect more than $1,600 a week from the state.

But it sure beats stuffing envelopes at home.