Tuesday, May 21, 2024

AR-Sec. State: A Pay Cut For Mark Martin?

While looking into the state car issue and trying to figure out the impact of the new Republican constitutional officers’ refusal of state cars, I realized that there is a bit of a silver lining to Arkansans electing someone wholly unqualified to be our next Secretary of State. You see, as Secretary of State, Mark Martin should cost the state nearly $30,000 less than he did as a legislator in 2009.

If you recall, Martin grossed $88,433 in taxpayer money in 2009, most of which ($72,490) was tax-free. Even if we take out $1200 for FICA and generously call gas, oil, vehicle maintenance, and office costs $7000, Martin still netted a little over $80,000 from his pool of taxpayer money.

In terms of salary, his new position pays almost $40,000 more than being a state representative, $54,594 vs. $15,953. Importantly, however, Arkansas law sets requirements on the Secretary’s office that more or less eliminates Martin’s ability to claim mileage reimbursements and completely abrogates his ability to claim a flat rate $1350 to reimburse himself for using a room in his own home.

First, let’s look at the relevant laws

Arkansas Constitution Art. 6, § 21

Duties of Secretary of State.
The Secretary of State shall keep a full and accurate record of all the official acts and proceedings of the Governor; and, when required, lay the same with all papers, minutes and vouchers relating thereto, before either branch of the General Assembly. He shall also discharge the duties of Superintendent of Public Instruction, until otherwise provided by law.

Arkansas Constitution Amendment 70, § 1

Executive Department and General Assembly — Salaries — Restrictions on reimbursements.
(a) No official of the Executive Department shall be reimbursed by the State of Arkansas for any expenses except those reasonably connected to their official duties and only if such reimbursement is made for documented expenses actually incurred and from the regular budget appropriated for the official’s office. Such restrictions on expense reimbursement are of a general application and also are intended specifically to prohibit the appropriation and use of public relations funds.
Except as provided herein, such officials of the Executive Department shall not receive any other income from the State of Arkansas, whether in the form of salaries or expenses (emphases added).

(It was the last sentence of Amendment 70 that formed the basis of Webb’s proselytizing lawsuit.)

Taking it a step further, the Arkansas Code seems to explicitly remove the idea of mileage between home and Little Rock as an expense that is “reasonably connected to [the Secretary of State’s] official duties.”

Arkansas Code Annotated § 25-16-403 (2010)

Powers and duties generally.
(a) The Secretary of State shall reside and keep his or her office at the seat of government and shall have the custody of all records, rolls, and documents which properly belong to the state (emphasis added).

Together, these laws say (a) the Secretary of State has to live in Little Rock (or, at least, Pulaski County) and (b) he can only get reimbursements for expenses related to his official duties as defined in Ark. Const. Art. 6, § 21 and A.C.A. § 25-16-401, et seq. All of which is to say that mileage between one’s home in the hinterlands and his required home in Little Rock would not be covered. The job requires per statute that you live in Little Rock, and nothing in Art. 6 § 21 relates to your commute between somewhere else and your Little Rock abode. Likewise, what you do when not on work time — say, perhaps, driving up to Prairie Grove — is not an official duty that would entitle you to mileage reimbursement. (As additional proof, I note that the Republicans’ state-car lawsuit specifically refers to the commute from home to work in a state car as “personal use” of the car.)

This being the case, there goes much of the $56,290 from Martin’s 2009 total. Amendment 70 further allows for the General Assembly, but not constitutional officers, to receive per diem, so there goes the rest of that total. Likewise, because the reimbursement for his home office was paid via a statute that only applied to legislators, and the laws regarding Secretary of State require him to use the established office, Martin can say adios to the other $16,200 he’s been pocketing yearly.

Now, Martin is apparently already making plans to live in Little Rock. According to what I’ve heard from a couple different sources, it seems that Martin, his wife, and his kids are all going to live in the Capitol Hill Building, where Martin’s wife is likely going to homeschool the kids (so, I assume, she can brainwash teach creationism as a valid scientific theory).

Leaving aside for a moment the questionable practice of someone as demonstrably shady as Martin renting an apartment to himself in the building that he oversees as Secretary of State, two questions remain:

1. Is Martin going to pay rent on his apartment at the CHB? If not, this is exactly the same issue as was raised in Doyle Webb’s lawsuit — a violation of Amendment 70’s prohibition on extra income in the form of expenses.

2. If he does pay rent, will he claim that, because he is required to live in Little Rock, the cost is “reasonably related” to his “official duties” as Secretary of State and therefore reimbursable? While I suppose that argument could be made with a straight face, it’s still pretty tenuous.

For one thing, in terms of prohibited extra income, I fail to see a true distinction between not paying rent and paying rent that you are then reimbursed; a free apartment is a free apartment. Additionally, if the GOP lawsuit complains that “personal use” of the state-owned vehicles, including the constitutional officers’ respective commutes from home to work is verboten extra income, a free apartment for the Secretary of State and his family, which would certainly be for personal use, should certainly be a no-no.

Now, the last I heard, the going rate on those Capitol Hill Building abodes was $300 or $325 per month. If he pays that same amount, Martin is out an additional $3600 to $4000/year, in addition to forgoing the mileage, per diem, and office reimbursements that so padded his pockets the past six years. Subtracting that from the gross salary, Martin’s new job is worth just under $51,000 — $29,000 less than our estimate of what his old gig was worth.

You smell that? It smells like … karma.


Post-script: In response to a question on Twitter from Mariah Hattah, I previously stated that Martin’s accepting a state car would be cheaper for the state than would reimbursement for the use of his personal vehicle. I’d completely overlooked the fact that he could not get mileage from Prairie Grove.

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