JIM SHARPE

Hey, former Arizona DES director! You had just one job …

Aug 13, 2020, 12:25 PM

Records obtained by The Arizona Republic show that the governor’s hand-picked, interim director for the Department of Economic Security got paid a ton — at the same time tons of Arizonans were waiting to get paid their unemployment benefits by DES.

Unemployment benefits that thousands hadn’t received weeks after applying for them.

Tom Betlach came out of retirement to take over DES and was paid handsomely for it: $200 an hour. Which (according to the Republic) was the highest rate of pay of any state government employee. He made almost $95,000 for 75 days of work — on top of the $10,000 he was already pulling in every month from his state pension.

I try to not be envious when I hear how much other people make. It’s not a good look. Especially when we are talking about somebody making big bucks for overseeing a big corporation or government agency that has big problems — big inherited problems. But those big bucks should yield big results.

With more than 37,000 Arizonans currently waiting for their claims to processed, it doesn’t look like he or his successor, Michael Wisehart, got those big results. (Maybe Wisehart’s excuse is that he’s working half as hard — after all, he does make less than half of what Betlach was getting paid.)

The governor’s spokesman says they’re still incredibly grateful for Betlach’s willingness to serve Arizonans.

Betlach did serve Arizonans — and at a tough time when DES workers were worked to the bone (for about 15 bucks an hour) trying to keep up with a demand for unemployment benefits that we have never seen before and, we all hope, never see again.

But the governor’s office didn’t just show a lot of gratitude — they flashed a lot of cash. Betlach’s hourly rate (equal to more than $490,000/year) is about ten times what the average Arizonan makes.

And that doesn’t make it sound like he came out of retirement for the sole purpose of serving Arizonans — it sounds more like he came out of retirement for self-serving purposes.

What do they say? “Good work if you can get it.” I guess that’s especially true when so many people are looking for work and they can’t get it.

Or even a lousy unemployment check.

Jim Sharpe

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Hey, former Arizona DES director! You had just one job …