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State Hire Questioned at Hearing

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Seven other candidates tested better. Six other candidates were certified. But the state hired her anyway.

And now the hiring of a sign language interpreter is being questioned by lawmakers.

The legislature's Personnel Committee heard from a state agency director and two qualified candidates who were passed over for this job.

KATV first brought this hire to your attention last month, and it seems we aren't much closer to answering the main question:  can the woman hired do the job? 

The veteran state employee put into this new position did not attend the meeting, and whether she is qualified to do the job depends on who you ask.

Here is what one of the committee members wondered aloud:  could the recent hire by the state have interpreted the spoken words of legislators and witnesses for the gallery full of concerned deaf citizens the way the interpreters on hand did Tuesday afternoon?

State workforce director Bill Walker told a committee of legislators that the answer to that is yes.

Despite lacking the certification that other applicants had, Walker told committee members that the woman hired has a deaf family member, has signed for members of her church for the past ten years and has been a loyal state employee for more than 20 years.

  • Click here to read a partial transcript of the hearing.

But the deaf community is not pleased with the pick.

"The deaf community is not very happy," says Dr. Glen Anderson, former
Director of Training for the Research Training Center on Deafness for the U of A system and himself a deaf individual.  "It is an insult to both the deaf community and the professional interpreting community. We expected the agency to follow high standards in their hires of interpreters."

"If she could sign what was going on here today…why does she need to enroll in a class on signing at UALR?"

"She is pursuing the class for the purposes of seeking national certification," says Director Walker.  "So that is a process that you go through for the national certification."

The state is paying for it's recent hire (by way of a federal grant) to gain certification when six candidates with certifications in sign language interpreting were passed over…including two who testified before the committee.

"This doesn't pass the smell test," says committee chair Rep. Bryan King.  "I mean…we have hired somebody who is not qualified to do…that couldn't pass minimum tests…and that is my opinion. So now we're going to talk about how to go forward on this."

And what the committee voted to do is ask the Department of Finance and Administration take a closer look at the hire.

The easiest way to address all the questions may have been to ask the woman hired to appear before the committee and interpret some sign language, but that didn't happen.

During her first six months on the job she did not go out by herself and serve as an interpreter for any Arkansas Rehabilitation Service clients, which is what she has been hired to do.

Air date:  July 17th, 2012