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Bill Walker On Interpreter Hire: “I’m Comfortable With The Decision That Was Made”

Updated: Apr 13

KATV has released a partial transcript of conversations that took place at the personnel committee hearing on Tuesday in Little Rock.

Below are some of the more interesting excerpts.  Enjoy!

Director of Workforce Services, Bill Walker:

If we had taken the position that we want the criteria to be that we want to have these high QAST levels if you will…that we want to have this national certification if you will…then there would be nobody in our department today that would qualify…then.

Perhaps this situation is worse than we originally thought…

Committee Vice Chair David Powers:

It appears we threw the preferred qualifications out the window.

Not just the preferred ones–the minimum qualifications too.  This person cannot even sign 50% of an English conversation.  

Don’t believe me?  Check out this exchange between Walker and KATV’s Jason Pederson:

“You were asked at one point of the meeting if (the chosen candidate) could do what the interpreters were doing for the gallery here…and you said yes.” “Yes, I did.” “You’ve seen this document when she was interviewed by David McDonald and was shown a video on sign language. Mr. McDonald noted that she did not understand the English or the American Sign Language.” (Walker nods in agreement) “How do you justify what you told the committee with Mr. McDonald’s assessment of her ability?” “I justify it based on her 25 years of experience doing sign language.” “She had that experience when she took this test, right?” “Let me answer your question.  Do you want me to answer your question?” “I do.” “I justify it with 25 years of experience with sign language.  I also justify it with her community outreach and her educational background where she in college level courses took sign language and passed those courses.  It was part of her minor that you have never mentioned before in your reporting.  So that is how I justify it.” “Was Mr. McDonald mistaken when he noted that she did not understand English or ASL?” “I think you would need to ask him that question.” “Well he is not here.” “O.K.  Well you can call him.” “Have you asked him that?” “No I haven’t.” “You’ve never asked him ‘Why did you write that in your notes?  We hired a woman and you said she didn’t understand English or ASL.” “I didn’t ask him.” “Do you intend to?” “Ah…not really.  I’m comfortable with the decision that was made.”

Here are some excerpts from an interview with Dr. Glen Anderson (who is deaf), formerly Director of Training for the Research Training Center on Deafness for the U of A System:

Q:  Is having a deaf relative, signing in church and taking some college courses and adequate substitute for certification?

No.  The answer is no.  Because church interpreting is different from professional interpreting.  The number of deaf people who attend church reflects maybe a small number of people.  What we are talking about is everyday life, you know, people on their jobs, medical appointments, mental health issues, far more complex than church interpreting.  So it cannot be substituted.  No sir.  You need to be certified to be a professional interpreter.

Q:  What does the deaf community think about this hire?

The deaf community is not very happy.  It is an insult to both the deaf community and the professional interpreting community.  We expected the agencies to follow high standards in their hires of interpreters.

Q:  Is there anything you would like to add?

Obviously she is not qualified for the position.  I’m happy that we had this hearing.  I think that it is good that the legislators could hear about this situation.  And hopefully there will be some positive resolutions to this.

Walker on the interpreter:

This lady (the chosen candidate) has worked for us for almost six months.  She has done everything we have asked her to do…including enroll in school to get this training…this certification.

Well, everything except her job, which is to sign.  And that certification?  $36,600+, compliments of the taxpayers.

More from Walker:

But we don’t make decisions just on…I could give you a lot of examples of the people that are most qualified who are perhaps not the best workers.  They lack passion.  They lack commitment.  They lack loyalty.  They lack the purpose in what we are looking for in our employees.  Many of them they may come just to get a job and then move on to another one.  Remember now…we can set qualifications as high as we want to…we got to get our pay levels up there as well.  Many of our folks deserve to be paid a whole lot more and state government just has historically not been able to offer that to people.

Committee chair, in response:

But in this case we had people with certifications that were applying for the job and knew how much they were going to make.


And that very well may be all they had.  I’m not sure.  I mean I didn’t go into the reasons why we didn’t select someone.  I did look into why we selected someone because that was the point of discussion.  And I’m not here to disparage anyone.  There could have been several reasons why we chose not to hire somebody because they met qualifications.  We could have somebody that meets qualifications that had just been released from prison.  I don’t know.  We can have them look at that if that is important.  We made the best decision based on what we had for somebody to meet the needs that we had at that time and we looked at it from the total picture. It wasn’t about the test scores.

Well, Walker at least got that right–it wasn’t about the test scores, or Miss Taylor, who tested 8th out of nine applicants, wouldn’t have been hired.

Be sure and check out the transcript from KATV.  The full exchange between Walker and Pederson at the end of the document is quite interesting.

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