The new acting director of the Legislative Research Commission is eager to tackle the challenge of overseeing the agency as the General Assembly sets the state’s spending priorities in the 2014 session.
Legislative leaders named Marcia Seiler as director Wednesday in the wake of former director Robert Sherman’s resignation Sept. 20.
Seiler, a deputy director of LRC and head of the agency’s Office of Education Accountability, begins Thursday. She earns $121,200 annually and has been with the agency since 1999, when she was hired as an investigator with the OEA, she said.
Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker Greg Stumbo said the search for a new director could take six to eight months, meaning Seiler will lead the agency as lawmakers write the next two-year budget.
“We have a wide range of professionalism and expertise and dedication in all the staff that are there, so I really trust that they’re going to help me get through this session and they’re going to work their hardest to make this a good budget session,” Seiler said in a phone interview.
Stivers, R-Manchester, said Seiler’s distance from the Capitol made her a viable candidate. Seiler’s office is on Coffeetree Road, not with LRC’s Capitol offices.
“We felt since she was somewhat segregated and off the campus that she would be an appropriate person to come in as the acting director,” Stivers said.
Lawmakers also agreed to contact the National Council on State Legislatures to assist with the search process. The NCSL will conduct a performance audit of LRC as its first order of business, something that has never previously been performed at the agency, Stumbo said.
That performance audit would cover a wide range of issues, such as salaries, personnel decisions and policies.
“They’ve (NCSL) looked at 10 states for comparison, for example, with South Dakota,” Stumbo said, referencing a report from Stivers’ deputy chief of staff, Jay Hartz, regarding South Dakota’s search for a similar legislative agency head.
“I would anticipate they would do the same thing here. As far as I’m concerned, it’s an open field and they can look at what they want to.”
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, was unsure how much the NCSL would charge to help recruit a new LRC director.
“My guess is that knowing how fiscally conservative they are in South Dakota, that it’s not cost prohibitive,” he said.
Sherman resigned two weeks ago under a cloud of controversy that has only intensified recently.
Three legislative staffers have filed lawsuits in Franklin Circuit Court alleging sexual harassment and retaliation by two lawmakers, including LRC as a defendant in the suit. Sherman defended the agency’s handling of the sexual harassment allegations filed against former Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis, in his resignation letter.
Sherman’s shredding of LRC documents two days after his resignation also is under investigation by Kentucky State Police, though he and others that were present have denied the records were related to the agency’s sexual harassment investigation.
Seiler declined to discuss the issues surrounding the LRC.
“My main focus is getting in the office tomorrow and meeting with staff and just looking at the job I have ahead of me, but I don’t want to speak specifically to any of the allegations and things that are going on right now,” she said Wednesday.