by Clay Herrmann
In an email sent on behalf of the county judge’s legal counsel, county officials are urged to circle the wagons in order to deny interested citizens or the press information regarding investigation of financial matters in the County Judge’s Office. Concurrent investigations have been initiated by the Office of Legislative Audit, Prosecuting Attorney Terri Harris, and the Arkansas State Police.
The email to County officials was in response to a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request sent to Garland County “Comptroller”, Susan Ashmore.
Ashmore now heads the new “Finance Department” created in January of this year by an ordinance enacted by the county legislature (Quorum Court) at the request of Judge Davis. Employees of the Finance Department, some of whom transferred from offices of other elected county officials, all now work under the authority of the office of County Judge. Davis made Ashmore the highest paid county employee in Garland County (with the exception John Wells, Director of the Garland County Library. His salary is reported to be $108,489. The county library has its own governing board and separate dedicated millage funding. Consequently, library employees enjoy some of the highest public-service pay scales in our area, as can be seen in garland-county-personnel-2-2016. The Comptroller’s salary as reported by County Clerk, Sarah Smith, in response to an FOIA request in February of this year is $89,610. (The county judge and sheriff have the highest salaries among Garland County elected officials. Both receive a current annual remuneration of $78,113.14).
Paying an employee a salary higher than the employee’s supervisor is, of course, unusual. County Attorney Ralph Ohm informed me in a conversation several months ago, that he had advised Judge Davis against giving the comptroller such a salary. That advice was not taken. Evidently Judge Davis feels that the scope of Ashmore’s services and the responsibility she bears deserve more compensation than what either the sheriff or county judge do.
A listing of county employees, hire dates, and salaries can be viewed at: garland-county-personnel-2-2016.