Monday, April 15, 2024

Kelly’s Zeroes: Staying Busy At Taxpayer Expense

Prior to Mark Martin’s (regrettably) taking office in 2011, Augustine John Kelly–known to most as AJ–worked in part as the city attorney for Fairfield Bay, Arkansas, earning $48, 746.00 from the resort town in 2010 alone.  In 2011, he took a job with the new Secretary of State as the Deputy Secretary of State for Elections, Legal, and Business & Commercial Services.  That’s a full-time position, which Roland A. Reed has previously told us leaves Kelly very busy on many matters.  So, if Kelly is too busy to defend the Secretary of State’s Office in a lawsuit, he’s certainly too busy to keep an outside job as city attorney, right?

I mean…unless part of the reason he is so busy is because he was doing a lot of the city attorney work on state time….

Oh.  Right.  That’s exactly what he’s been doing.

Since January 2012, Kelly has sent emails to Fairfield Bay in his city attorney capacity at least 39 times.1 This is not even counting emails that were sent just minutes before 8am or minutes after 5pm–it only counts emails sent on regularly scheduled workdays during work hours.

More importantly, attached to seven emails were PDFs whose metadata showed that the PDFs were created on workdays during work hours as well. (Creation of the PDF is stamped as of the time the document was saved as a PDF from another program, generally Microsoft Word.)

Monday, April 8, 2013 at 5:07 PM — PDF created at 3:42:18 PM

Monday, April 8, 2013 at 4:05 PM — PDF created at 3:42:08 PM

Monday, January 14, 2013 at 9:54 AM — PDF created at 9:09:11 AM

Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 8:43 PM — PDF created at 4:52:49 PM

Monday, March 12, 2012 at 5:13 PM — PDF created at 4:47:43 PM

Monday, March 12, 2012 at 2:17 PM — PDF created at 2:08:03 PM

Monday, March 12, 2012 at 2:16 PM — PDF created at 2:07:32 PM

Meaning that Kelly is not only doing city attorney correspondence on state time; he’s also doing some of the actual drafting and research work and billing Fairfield Bay $125/hour while on the State clock as well.

That billing amount comes from Kelly’s own invoice to Fairfield Bay, and it leads to perhaps the most damning part of this whole thing.  On the last Monday of each month, the city of Fairfield Bay holds its City Council Work Session at 2PM in the Bay Center Conference Room.  In afternoon traffic, to get from the Arkansas State Capitol to the Work Session takes a little over 1.5 hours, meaning an attendee would have to leave Little Rock just after noon to arrive in time for the Session.

According to his invoice for 2012, Kelly attended these Work Session in February, March, April, June, July, August, October, and November.  He made it a point to specifically let Fairfield Bay know that he would not be attending the January or September Sessions.

Yet, if you look at his leave records for 2012, there is absolutely no time taken off that would cover the dates of the Work Sessions.  None.  If you assume that leaving just after noon to attend the meeting means that he’s missing out on five hours of SoS work time, that’s forty hours right there.

Somewhat surprisingly, in 2013, he has taken some time off on the last Mondays in February, March, April, June, and September. However, aside from June, the time he’s taken off has been insufficient to cover a drive to Fairfield Bay and a meeting (to say nothing of a drive back).2

Not that the Work Sessions are the only times that Kelly is apparently going to Fairfield Bay or doing work for them away from the Capitol without taking leave time to do so.  On Wednesday, March 20, 2013, Kelly received an email, stating:

I have a teleconference with Pippa White set up for next Tuesday at 3:00 p.m.  I tried to get her lined up for Monday afternoon to tag on to the working group, but that doesn’t work for her.

Shortly after that email, a second one was sent:

Paul, A.J. & Lea,

I now have Andy Offutt Irwin lined up at 2:30 on Tuesday afternoon.  We should be able to finish our discussion in 30 min. and be ready for Pippa at 3:00.  Same discussion topics.

Kelly’s response to this plan?

Works for me.

And how much leave time did he take on March 26, 2013?  None.

Overall, it appears that Kelly’s attendance at meetings in Fairfield Bay is so commonplace that they are routinely scheduled under the assumption that he will be able to attend.  Case in point: An “ISO Briefing” was scheduled for Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 2 PM.  While Kelly’s response — “Not sure I can make that time” — leaves it unclear whether he actually attended this meeting, it seems highly unlikely that this is the only meeting scheduled for a weekday or that Kelly’s attendance at such meetings is out of the norm.  After all, one would expect, if a weekday meeting were a rarity for Kelly, the email informing him about it might have referenced “if you can attend” or “there was no way to have the meeting after business hours” or something similar.3

It bears mentioning a second time that this is only what we know about based on limited email records.  Were we privy to all of the emails and all of the invoices, it is very possible (read: nearly certain) that the amount of time devoted to his city attorney duties while on the clock would increase.

Even without that extra information, however, this doesn’t pass the smell test.  Taxpayers pay A.J. Kelly $100,043.62 per year in his position with the Secretary of State, in a state where the median household income is barely over $40,000. No one can honestly say that they have no problem with a full-time state employee spending his well-compensated work hours performing a second job and getting paid for both.

And if you happen to be a taxpayer in Fairfield Bay, you are really getting shafted.  In addition to your tax dollars paying Kelly’s state salary, you also paid him an additional $18696.50 in 2012 alone. Fairfield Bay Municipal Code states only that the city attorney is appointed and serves at the pleasure of the mayor and city council. It doesn’t define a salary or limit his billing rate, so Kelly is free to bill your town $125/hr for answering emails from his other job, and he’s apparently allowed to bill you by submitting little more than a list of dates and actions (with no amount of time specified for each event) and claim 135 total billable hours that you have no way of verifying.

In case you were looking for the nice little ironic cherry on this whole thing, consider that all SoS employees were required to sign a form verifying that they had read and fully understood the prohibited activities listed in the Code of Ethics in the handbook.  On the very first page, below where it hilariously claims that the “Secretary of State will not condone employee conduct that either violates, or has the appearance of violating, the law, including the ethical provisions,” is this:

Outside Activities, Employment, and Directorships

Secretary of State employees should avoid acquiring any business interest, engaging in outside employment or participating in any activity outside the Secretary of State office that would conflict with his or her official duties.

But, hey…maybe Kelly was too busy doing other things to actually read the Code of Ethics.

  1. I say “at least” because some emails were apparently lost when Fairfield Bay upgraded computers at City Hall.

  2. It’s worth noting, the June leave taken was the first month after Blue Hog Report returned that would have required Kelly to take time off to attend the meeting.  Strange, that.

  3. There was also a meeting scheduled for Monday, July 29, 2013, at 1 p.m., prior to the Work Session, which Kelly cancelled last minute.

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