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ARS Hire Under Fire

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Two candidates passed-over for a state job claim the old adage "It's not what you know but who you know" is alive and well in Arkansas.

The viewer messages posted online following last night's Seven-On-Your-Side report have been passionate and one-sided.

All are concerned about a recent hire make by Arkansas Rehabilitation Services (ARS).

This may surprise you, but to work for the state as a sign language interpreter you need only a bachelor's degree in special education, social work or a related field.

Having a degree as an interpreter is preferred…but not necessary.

In January ARS hired a sign language interpreter with no certifications, the second worst test scores of nine applicants, and who was unable to watch a sign language video and translate the hand movements into English.

Those passed over say the hire has the potential to harm the deaf community.

"It is very personal to me," says Cheryl Thomas of Cabot.  "My father was in town visiting and ended up in the hospital. Had she been the interpreter…I don't know what could have happened to him…because she can't interpret."

"As interpreters we have a code of ethics that we should follow and one of those ethics is you do not take a job you are not qualified to do," says John West of Benton.

The woman who got the job is certified…as a funeral director.

Her resume states that she has worked with Premier Funeral Home for the past decade.

Premier Funeral Home is owned by Bill Walker.

Walker, a former state senator, was appointed by Governor Beebe to serve as director of the Department of Career Education.

Walker directly supervises Robert Trevino, the man who ultimately approved the hire in question.

"Why is she the one in that position?," asks Thomas.  "I don't see a professional reason for it."

"So you think it is not what she knew but who she knew?"

"I do," answers Thomas.

"I suspect it was a friend of a friend type deal," surmises West.  "And again I have no problem with that if the person is qualified to do the job."

We visited with director Walker by phone.

He says he had nothing to do with this hire…that he trusts his managers…in this case Robert Trevino and Carl Daughtery…to evaluate all candidates and make the right decision.

Walker says there have been no complaints about the new hire and that she is meeting all job expectations.

You can watch the original story on matter by clicking here.

Air date: June 27th, 2012