Arkansas Forestry Commission director defends 34 layoffs, including 14 firefighters, before state subcommittee, says other options for addressing US$4M shortfall were considered

LOS ANGELES , February 9, 2012 () – The Arkansas Forestry Commission chief looked for alternatives to employee layoffs before letting 34 staff go Jan. 13 to address a US$4 million budget deficit, he told a subcommittee of the state Legislative Council Tuesday, the Arkansas News Bureau reported Feb. 7.

State Forestry Commission director John Shannon testified before the government personnel subcommittee, and answered questions about why he did not implement possible furloughs, job-sharing or a hiring freeze.

At the hearing, Shannon said he first discussed options with staff but proceeded instead to the 34 layoffs, including 14 firefighters. Two additional employees agreed to retire, the Arkansas News Bureau reported.

Co-chairman of the personnel subcommittee Rep. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, told media after the hearing that he was concerned by Shannon's failure to inform legislators he was looking at possible furloughs.

A subcommittee recommended earlier that 20 jobs be restored and the legislative Joint Budget Committee agreed.

At the time of the Arkansas News Bureau report, funding had not been determined. However, Gov. Beebe issued a release Feb. 8 stating he would direct the Arkansas Agriculture Dept. to reallocate US$550,000/year from its budget to the Forestry Commission to allow the restoration of the firefighter positions beginning Feb. 21.

The primary source of this article is the Arkansas News Bureau, Little Rock, Arkansas, on Feb. 7, 2012.

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