A formal opinion from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today says that most of former state treasurer employee Sam Swayze’s records should be released as the office custodian of records intended to do.
Swayze is Treasurer Dennis Milligan’s first cousin. He was hired despite a state law prohibiting Milligan from hiring his first cousin. Milligan has said he didn’t know of the law and dismissed Swayze from his $63,000 job after learning it was illegal. Freedom of Information Act requests were made for Swayze’s personnel records. Swayze objected.
By law, the attorney general reviewed. The review concluded that the records should be released. It said some permissible information had been redacted, but the office said it disagreed with one small decision — to redact the amount of leave time Swayze had accrued in his month on the job.
I’ve asked for the record now, but don’t expect much. (UPDATE: Indeed, they are routine.) The opinion says the records “are either standard employee-intake and documentation records (e.g., job application and resume, vehicle authorization forms, salary and leave information), or they otherwise reflect the performance of the official functions of the Treasurer’s Office, which makes these documents public records.”
I’ve asked a followup and more pertinent question: Has the attorney general offered any guidance to Milligan on questions of repayment of Swayze’s pay and what actions should be taken either criminally or civilly for the violation of the law. Nepotism of his sort is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. A civil penalty can also be assessed for a knowing violation.
For the record are prepared past responses from office spokesman Grant Wallace and Milligan himself on the matter:
Grant Wallace said:
“Sam has 28 years of investment and financial advisory experience. He’s worked for companies such as Delta Trust Investments, Smith Barney, Dean Witter Reynolds, Shearson American Express and Swink & Company Investments.”
“Sam has held 6 various security licenses including series 5,7,31,52,63 and 65. He held these from 1979 through 2007.”
“Again this was a mistake we discovered and have procedures in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
Treasurer of State Dennis Milligan issued the following statement:
“A mistake was made in the hiring process as I entered into this office. For my part in that mistake I want to humbly apologize to my family and especially to the people of Arkansas. I have reported the violation to the Attorney General and Director of the Office of Personnel Management, and my office will do all that is necessary to cooperate in this matter.”
“At the time, I was unware of the extent to which relationship was defined in the state nepotism law. I thought the policy applied to the immediate family- mother, father, brother, sister, wife, son or daughter.”
“As a result of our internal review of this matter and in order to prevent this type of situation in the future, I have ordered a new policy to be implemented. After the interview process is complete and during the pre-hire background checks that must occur before an offer can be made we will require any prospective employee to complete pre-hire paperwork that includes the employee disclosure form. The pre-hire paperwork will then be reviewed by the Deputy Chief of Staff and Human Resources director. This will allow for a separation of duties and a backup review to all new hire paperwork.”