Jarrod Johnson and Appropriations

Jarrod Johnson - Commissioner of School and Public Lands

Every once in a while something happens that takes time to digest, and this story Bob Mercer wrote a couple days ago is one of them.

The political future of Jarrod Johnson beyond his current office as state school and public lands commissioner seemed uncertain Friday after his meeting with the Legislature?s Joint Committee on Appropriations.

Legislators on the panel, which oversees his office?s budget, told him they were disappointed and offended by his decision to grant raises to his staff.

Senator Deb Peters of Hartford said:

…she was appalled that Johnson gave raises while the salary line was being held by departments such as Social Services and Corrections that deal with life-and-death situations.

Johnson gave raises of 3 percent to three employees and 20 percent to a fourth employee in his six-person office.

Perhaps the issue that really caused the conflict was giving only one employee a raise of 20%.

Johnson defended his actions by saying that he still delivered on the required 10 percent cut in his office?s general-fund spending.

He repeatedly claimed the raises were necessary to keep trained staff on the payroll at key times.

Johnson?s explanation for giving the raises was punctured, however, by his answers to a series of questions by Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg. Brown is the joint committee?s Senate chairman.

Johnson?s answers to Brown showed that the only person who threatened to leave the office was the recipient of the 20 percent raise.

That raise went to Johnson?s deputy, Justin Ohleen, whose annual salary is listed at $60,000.

So who is right in this? Are the legislators correct to say that there shouldn’t be any raises, or does the office holder have the right to make decisions regarding his staff salaries as long as they fit within his budget?

24 Replies to “Jarrod Johnson and Appropriations”

  1. The Truth

    The appropriators did their job and required the cut. It’s Johnson’s job (not the legislature) to manage the money that they appropriate.

    ‘Holding the line’ on salary policy would have been for window dressing.

  2. Anonymous

    Why does Ohleen deserve a 20% pay increase? – he doesn’t.

    Did these same legislators on appropriations get worked up when they caved on 10% education cuts and dropped them to 6.5%? – no. they forgot to grandstand then.

    I think there is foolishness on both sides here and $15,000 in raises isn’t that big of a deal in the whole scheme of things. Maybe the millions they kept in Pam Homan’s district are though.

  3. Anonymous

    This office literally does nothing and JJ is not there most of the time….eliminate it by constitutional amendment (we vote on enough crazy ones, how about a practical one) and save bundles of money!!!!

  4. Troy Jones

    Managers have an obligation to manage their budget. Johnson’s decision is one legitimately made by managers.

    The questions by Appropriations are legitimate of appropriators.

    In the end, both acted within their authority.

  5. Anonymous

    Jarrod is a hard worker that manages an office that brings in millions of dollars for South Dakota education. If he stayed under budget then there is no issue.

    1. Johnson & Johnson

      Cory, for once you and I agree on something. That is a great line!

      Ohleen does not deserve the raise.

      What’s worse?

      Dusty quitting before ever serving one day of his second term and not even finishing his first term?

      Or Jarrod giving Ohleen a 20% pay raise? Ohleen should be embarrassed thinking he is entitled to 20%.

      1. Name

        Dusty is working for the same people he was before, and the same people who elected him. He’s like the HS principal who gets offered and accepts a contract renewal, and then before the effective date is hired to be that school districts superintendent. Hardly seems like a dereliction of duty.

        1. Anonymous

          Umm, we’re discussing JARROD Johnson, not Dusty. Dusty Johnson has been doing a good job. Jarrod not so much.

  6. anon

    Johnson should have let the door hit Ohleen on the way out. No one is entitled. Ohleen didn’t have any experience in that office when he started two years ago. Neither did Jen Tusconna. Jarrod doesn’t hire people with experience so what is he talking about when he says he needs experienced people? Tusconna was a nice person though.

    1. Anonymous

      Toscana understood what the office was supposed to be doing. She was raised west river where most of the school land is and she worked hard to make sure that all the revenue raised went to the school fund to educate our kids. Johnson should have put the money that went to Ohleen’s raise into that school fund where it belongs. We should beg Toscana to run for the office when Johnson is termed!

    1. anon

      So that means you think all the other department heads should have too??

      “To hell with a no raise mandate, I’m doing it anyway”…

      Don’t think so.

  7. Anonymous

    The legislature sets the overall budget – not salaries within the School and Public Lands office. As long as Jarrod stays within his budget then the legislature has nothing to say about it.

    I think Jarrod Johnson’s political future just got brighter. He showed that he has backbone and that he takes care of the people who work for him.

  8. Bill Jones

    Johnson is a hard working, solid conservative. Senator Peters seems to have great animosity toward conservatives. Anyone who knows her and her voting record knows it. Instead, she chooses to pall around with the “protect gays in the work place” and the pro abortion crowd.

    1. anon

      yet if the legislature would have authorized raises for the employees of just one office, you would have screamed the loudest.

      damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Johnson screwed up, plain and simple.


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