State Senator Raises Concerns Over Pay for Medical Board's Attorney

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Mar. 8, 2010 12:00 am  

During the 2009 legislative session, Arkansas state Sen. Steve Faris, D-Malvern, sought to prevent a private attorney from representing the Arkansas State Medical Board.

The Medical Board has used William H. Trice III of Little Rock as its attorney since 1989. Trice also represents the Arkansas State Board of Optometry and the Arkansas State Board of Dental Examiners.

Representing all three boards, Trice earned $135,000 in 2009 and $128,500 in 2008, according to records at the Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration.

"I just thought we were spending too much on contract attorneys," Faris said last week. "I'm the one that thought we ought to do away with that contract attorney stuff."

If the work were handled by the state Attorney General's Office, an attorney there would be paid about $80,000 a year, saving the state of Arkansas about $50,000 a year. The AG's Office typically handles the representation of most state agency boards and commissions, said Chief Deputy Attorney General Justin Allen. But there are some boards and commissions that hire private attorneys, such as the Arkansas Racing Commission.

Faris said his opening to prevent the Medical Board from using a private attorney came when representatives from the Attorney General's Office lobbied him for two or three more positions for its office.

In House Bill 1368, Faris included language that said one of the Attorney General's positions would be used to represent the Medical Board, Optometry Board and the Dental Examiners. But Faris said that specific language was removed from the bill because the boards still could have chosen to hire Trice.  

"So what I would have done was handcuff the Attorney General accidentally by saying you need this position with the expertise and the board wouldn't have even used it," Faris said.

Allen said the Attorney General's Office didn't end up with an extra position that would have required them to represent the medical boards.  

The boards don't want the Attorney General's Office to represent them, Allen said.

Trice said that the Medical Board had used an outside attorney for decades.

"The boards feel more comfortable in having someone there ... that gives them a continuity of service," he said.

The Arkansas Board of Optometry's executive director Howard Flippin said its board wanted Trice because he does a good job. And the Dental Examiners' executive director Donna Cobb said its board wanted to continue using Trice as its attorney.

Trice  said he didn't know how many hours a week he works serving the boards.

See also: Medical Board Inconsistent on Disciplinary Actions



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