Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Morning mailbag: Schools, courts, accountability

Posted By on Tue, Feb 12, 2013 at 5:00 AM

The morning mailbag:

* MEET YOU AT THE BAR: I mentioned the other day that Arkansas Supreme Court Associate Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson had recently become the court's liaison to the Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct, a court-appointed body that oversees the ethical standards of lawyers.

Goodson has had a little attention for extravagant gifts given to her a few years ago by her future husband John Goodson, a prominent trial lawyer, and, more recently, W. H. Taylor, a Fayetteville lawyer. Justice Goodson reported the gift of a $50,000 trip to Italy from Taylor last year. She says he is an old friend from her days in Fayetteville as well as a business partner of her husband, connections that, under state ethics law, clear gifts even from a powerful lawyer to a member of the state's highest court.

Small world item: The two most recent appointees to the Supreme Court Committee, announced by the court in December along with Justice Goodson's coming role as liaison to the conduct committee, were both Fayetteville lawyers, Tonya Patrick and Nicki Cung. According to the clips, Patrick, a lawyer and bank officer, is also W.H. Taylor's wife.

* AS THE TECH PARK TURNS: I can't get a read if Wednesday night is the night for the end of the long municipal nightmare of site selection for the taxpayer-financed Little Rock Technology Park. Does any site have four votes on the seven-member board? Can Chair Mary Good summon four votes for her preference — to reject all three finalists — and thus ignite a political bonfire? Will there be a vote at all as long as nobody can count four noses? It's almost as good as an episode of Netflix's "House of Cards" political series starring Kevin Spacey. Well, OK, Little Rock might be missing a philandering congressman with a hot wife, a foxy reporter who trades her body for scoops, a coke- and booze-addled political candidate and money-influenced decision making. Wait. We have that last element at least. And a government that doesn't inspire trust.

* UA REFUSES ACCOUNTABILITY: For the record I submitted an FOI request to the University of Arkansas for its reconstruction of what went wrong in the Advancement Division and how it ran a budget deficit of $3 to $5 million before the slide was stopped and the boss was canned — at full pay. The UA told me, as it had earlier told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, that while it would release some material, its special review of the overspending amounted to a personnel record for the involved employees. This reasoning could just as easily form the basis of making secret every last document in the possession of the UA.What are documents but a record of an employee's performance? I think there's a successful lawsuit in UA stonewalling. Sooner or later, somebody is going to file it. It's a pity that UA Chancellor David Gearhart continues to insist that full details on profligate spending of public money by his university is none of the public's business. In the meanwhile, you may want to peruse some e-mails on the matter at your leisure.

Part 1

and also:

Part 2.

UPDATE: The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has sued for release of the documents. Good for them. During economic hard times for newspapers, it continues to spend money in the public interest.

* NO FAN OF SCHOOL APPLICANT: The Internet certainly shrinks the size of the world. Still more communications reach my mailbox on Little Rock school superintendent candidate Walter Milton of Springfield, Ill. He has critics. The local newspaper also offers some interesting reading.

* ELECTION CALLED IN SHERWOOD: The Sherwood City Council responded positively to a petition campaign last night for a public referendum on a new wholesale electric agreement with the North Little Rock Electric Department. Before the vote to set a May special election, North Little Rock City Attorney Jason Carter, interim head of the city Electric Department, distributed a statement that said he'd respect whatever decision the council made, but said the referendum petitions were legally flawed.

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