Monday, September 12, 2016

Special master recuses in casino amendment challenge

Posted By on Mon, Sep 12, 2016 at 3:59 PM

Retired Circuit Judge Ben Story of Forrest City sent a letter to the Arkansas Supreme Court Saturday recusing from an appointment as a special master to review evidence about signature gathering in the lawsuit seeking to disqualify the casino amendment from the ballot.

Story said he'd learned Friday night something the Arkansas Blog pointed out Friday afternoon — his daughter-in-law, Amanda Story, is a registered lobbyist whose clients at Hargraves Consulting include Oaklawn Park. He said he hadn't known that when he accepted the appointment.

Oaklawn, along with Southland Gaming, is helping pay for expenses of the group opposing the casino amendment, which would legalize casinos in Boone, Washington and Miller counties. Currently, the only legal casinos in Arkansas are at Oaklawn and Southland.

Justice Courtney Goodson had earlier recused from the case and the governor will appoint a replacement. Her husband, lawyer John Goodson, has some thoroughbred racing interests. Also, Louis Cella, a member of the Cella family,  helped her campaign at a fund-raiser for her in Hot Springs last year.

Still no indication all the justices who've taken big money from nursing homes, led by Rhonda Wood and Courtney Goodson, have any intention of getting off the challenges to the amendment to make it financially difficult to sue over nursing home abuse.

PS: Another Small-World-of-Arkansas footnote: The letter seeking a special justice appointment by the governor is sent to the attention of  Bruce Campbell, the longtime GOP operator, who is director of appointments for the governor. Campbell's daughter, Ashley Golleher, is a lobbyist with Bruce Hawkins' lobbying firm, whose clients include Southland Gaming.

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