Burrage Watkins Hunter
Democratic State Auditor and Inspector Steve Burrage on Friday questioned the motivation for investigating last year's transfer of spokeswoman Terri Watkins from his office to the School Land Commission, with her salary paid through the Auditor's office.
Watkins remained on the Auditor's payroll from November 2009, when she moved to the Commission, through June 30. She was moved to the Commission payroll July 1, which was the first day of the 2011 fiscal year.
Such a transfer is authorized by statute (Title 74, Sections 840-3.13 and 1253 through 1256; the statutes are available at www.oscn.net), and is permissible as long as the receiving agency reimburses the sending agency for the transferred employee's salary, benefits and other expenses.
"There was no detriment to this office, and probably a benefit to the School Land Commission, because they were going through a lot of changes," said Burrage. "I'm just wondering if this attack on me is for political reasons or to inform the public."
GOP Auditor candidate Gary Jones questioned the transfer.
"If the individual is laid off and they went to work for another agency, then they should be paid out of that other agency, not paid out of the Auditor's office," he said. "It doesn't pass the smell test, and the last person, the last agency, that ought to be doing stuff like this is the state Auditor."
Burrage and Commission Secretary Mike Hunter signed an agreement authorizing Watkins' transfer on Oct. 15, 2009.
Receipts from the Auditor's office confirm the Commission reimbursed the agency for Watkins' salary, benefits and travel expenses.
"I couldn't afford the luxury of that position, and (Hunter), who has the authority to hire and fire employees, said he had a spot and I said, 'Fine,'" Burrage said.
"I don't know why this is such an interesting story," Hunter said Friday, "Agencies do loan employees all the time. In fact, in the agencies I've been in, it's just not an unusual arrangement."