Green Guide

House leader's top aide becoming $10K-a-month consultant

Posted August 30

— The Mississippi House speaker's chief of staff is leaving his state job to become a $10,000-a-month consultant handling many of the same duties.

Nathan Wells has been Speaker Philip Gunn's top aide since 2012, when House members elected the Republican from Clinton as their leader.

Wells has made $135,000 a year as a full-time House employee, The Clarion-Ledger reported . Wells said he will run his own company focused on energy efficiency while working as a policy and communications consultant for Gunn.

In July, Wells asked the state Ethics Commission whether he could work as a consultant for state government while running his own company. The commission said he could.

"I would cease to serve as a full-time employee ... and move to being an independent contractor for the purpose of making the transition easier for the office," Wells said in his request to the commission. "I would own and operate a business focused on helping private entities, city and county governments and school districts utilize technology to create better efficiency in the areas of energy usage and monitoring utilities."

Rebekah Staples has worked as a $10,000-a-month consultant for Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves during legislative sessions while also working in government relations for private clients. Records show she was paid $30,000 during three-month sessions and $40,000 when lawmakers met four months.

Staples worked for Republican Gov. Haley Barbour before he finished his second term in 2012, then worked fulltime for Reeves before becoming a consultant. On staff and as a consultant, she has helped legislators write the state budget.

Staples worked several years as a government relations specialist for the Butler Snow law firm, helping handle work for some of the firm's clients.

She also has a consulting contract with Mississippi State University's National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center, university records show. The center has paid Staples more than $48,000 in consulting fees and expenses since last year.

During a budget meeting last year about government contracts and consultants, Gunn and Reeves criticized the practice of employees retiring from state government jobs and returning as contractors or consultants doing the same duties. They called the practice double dipping.

Wells has worked for the state less than six years and is not vested in the public employees' retirement system.

In a statement Tuesday, Gunn said Wells is a "fantastic" employee, and the state will save money when Wells works as a consultant.

"There will be savings in salary and savings due to the fact that Nathan won't receive benefits or retirement," Gunn said.

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