A number of Arkansas legislators told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette yesterday that Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson is entitled to due process of law concerning allegations that he effectively was bribed to represent Preferred Family Healthcare in the legislature. They declined to join calls for his resignation.
More is at issue with Hutchinson than criminal law. Also, by the way, due process is a consideration some of them have not wanted to extend to Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen for issuing rulings they don’t like.
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I particularly liked hearing from Sen. Bart Hester.
Senate Republican leader Bart Hester of Cave Springs said the Senate Republican caucus adopted a policy last year to strip a senator who is indicted of his leadership duties, so “we don’t make emotional decisions when these times come.” He said he intends to follow that process.
“We live in a country where you are innocent until proven guilty,” Hester said.
Hester, however, has joined the jimpeachment lynch mob howling after Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen. When Griffen correctly ruled that the legislature had violated separation of powers by directing judges on court procedure involving use of “comfort dogs” for child witnesses, Hester commented ever-so-unemotionally (and dishonestly as to facts)
Griffen did not side with child rapists. He said court rules are set by the Supreme Court under the Arkansas Constitution, not by the legislature.
So my question: How long will Arkansas elect senators who side with corrupt plunderers of state tax dollars? Hutchinson, indeed is entitled to due process as a matter of law. He has not been charged. He insists the half-million he was paid on retainer was for legitimate legal work, though, as yet, no specific records of that work have been produced. But, no, he should not be forced to resign for mere allegations of criminal law violation short of a formal charge.
But here’s what we do know for facts: Hutchinson’s law practice has never been much (see the many bad debts he’s piled up that have resulted in legal action). For a time, he racked up “finder’s fees” for directing business to John Goodson’s law firm. He’s participated directly in legislative action in support of clients including Preferred Family Healthcare, a mattress merchant and a maker of gambling machines. It wasn’t much of a secret, though there’s no official public document that discloses his “legal clients.” He participated in legislative action despite these financial ties. Does anybody think Hutchinson would have had such clients were he NOT a member of the Arkansas Senate?
It is an obvious conflict of interest, just as it was an undisclosed conflict of interest when Bart Hester passed a huge tax break for billboard property owners when he himself owned such property.
I suspect we’d also find many conflicts of interest if we could see the record of “clients” of consulting firms several legislators have incorporated to gin up extra income. Some of these consultants have no visible means of support except legislative pay and per diem. Where is their expertise as consultants — beyond casting votes in committee and the House and Senate chambers? I’ll believe Senate leaders are serious about ethics reform if they do something about that sewer. Jon Woods was a consultant, speaking of a felonious senator.
In light of the disclosures in the bribery case of Rusty Cranford, and with only about six months left in his term of office, if Hutchinson had any sense of shame, he’d remove his festering ethical sore from the legislature. But I expect he needs the paycheck the next few months to help pay Tim Dudley, his criminal defense lawyer. Give him due process and another $20,000 or so of tax money, by all means. At least he’s off the public teat come January. But his legal client, Preferred Family, continues to reap $43 million a year from the state Medicaid program.