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The Insider March 10 

No sex please, we’re lawyers The Arkansas Supreme Court last week approved new rules of conduct for lawyers, based on an American Bar Association model. A key change was an explicit prohibition on sexual relations between lawyers and clients. David Koon wrote of this issue in the Times Feb. 24 and about some lawsuits that have been filed over sexual contact and remarks allegedly made by lawyers. The new rule only prohibits sexual relations, not suggestive remarks. But it’s possible that general good-conduct rules might be used more often against dirty-talking lawyers now that there’s a specific prohibition on sexual contact. Or we could hope. Nobody can remember the last time the lawyers’ disciplinary board punished anyone for a sexually related transgression, despite multiple complaints. Tabriz haul Tabriz, the biennial event that raises money for the Arkansas Arts Center acquisitions fund, took place last week and netted several hundred thousand dollars, although the exact total was still being computed at press time. More than 1,100 attended the casual Thursday silent auction. The black-tie dinner on Saturday attracted 556 people and big numbers were flying. George O’Connor captured a limited-edition red Hummer with a bid of $71,000. Sandra and Bob Connor and Chuck and Terri Erwin joined forces to pay $31,000 for a “Gotham Getaway,” which included eight Broadway show tickets, accommodations at the Four Seasons hotel and transportation on Warren Stephens’ private plane. Stephens, (who, with his wife, Harriet, chaired Tabriz), placed a winning bid of $15,000 for an original pastel drawing on paper by Daniel Massad. Sydney Murphy paid $12,500 for a 10-day trip for two to India. And Curt Bradbury anted up $6,000 to be “curator for a day,” which allows him to select works from the Arts Center’s permanent collection for installation in the atrium for six to eight weeks. Hey, Curt. We vote for the bulldogs playing poker. Nix VIPS? Word is that consultants will tell the Little Rock School Board March 10 (publication date of this issue), that several district programs should be eliminated, including Volunteers in Public Schools, as part of a new strategy to turn more decision-making over to individual schools. District employees and parents have speculated for weeks that VIPS, which for 35 years has worked to promote parent participation in the schools, will be killed. The VIPS office measures its success in the number of hours parents and others volunteer at schools: In 2004, according to the program, more than 18,000 volunteers spent 464,000 hours at Little Rock’s schools, helping in classrooms, doing clean up and repairs, acting as escorts on field trips, organizing events and fund-raisers and taking on other duties. The VIPS office values the hours donated in 2004 as worth more than $7 million. Superintendent Roy Brooks has announced that he believes the central administration is overstaffed and he expects to eliminate positions; VIPS’ six employees may be looking for new jobs soon. Related activities The battle over Deltic Timber’s bill to limit Central Arkansas Water’s condemnation power in the Lake Maumelle watershed has grown personal and washed over into unrelated legislative issues, we’re told. One small example: Deltic lobbyist Joe Bell (who also lobbies for Oaklawn) has set up an ad hoc hospitality room in the Capitol Hill Building apartment of Rep. Benny Petrus of Stuttgart, where drinks and nibbles (Oaklawn-sized shrimp) and talking points are dispensed. This doesn’t make opponents of the Deltic bill happy or more likely to support Petrus’ hard-charging campaign to be House speaker in 2007. They’ll more likely be backing Rep. Will Bond of Jacksonville. And, in our interwoven state government, there’s also the fact that Madison Murphy, a member of the state Highway Commission, is a member of the family that spun Deltic Timber off from the Murphy Oil empire. Surely he wouldn’t make highway financing decisions in the various legislative districts based on anything but the need for the roads, would he? Games of skill At press time, the anti-gambling lobby had been largely silent about the last-minute legislation to allow, if local voters approve, additional “electronic games of skill” at Oaklawn and Southland race tracks. Why? For one thing, anti-gambling forces have been focusing their efforts on beating any effort to remove the anti-lottery prohibition from the state Constitution. But there’s also an indication that the antis received assurances that any new slot machines would be akin to Instant Racing games already in operation at the tracks. These machines pay off on the results of past races, supposedly from pari-mutuel betting pools. Will there be video poker or blackjack machines under the new legislation? Card games are arguably games of skill and they’ve entered race tracks elsewhere under that theory, though opponents call video poker the “crack cocaine” of gambling because of its addictive nature. We haven’t been able to get an answer yet on what types of games are anticipated — NASCAR themes were mentioned to one lobbyist. But the religious lobby could get energized, depending on the answer. Riverfest music Riverfest is holding off announcing its music lineup until its mid-April press conference, but artists’ websites and Pollstar are already giving plenty of hints. We told you Rogers native and country music star Joe Nichols is scheduled for Sunday, May 29. Apparently set to open the festival in the “legendary black entertainer” position this year is Arkansas native B.B. King on May 27, with polka rockers Brave Combo of Denton, Texas also slated Friday. The big news this week is the Black Crowes — their original lineup with Chris Robinson and Rich Robinson is reportedly back together — showing up on the schedule. Of course, Riverfest always has a spot for adopted Arkies Trout Fishing in America. And REO Speedwagon is this year’s “legendary classic rockers” on Sunday. By the way, ticket prices of $7.50 advance at Harvest Foods and $15 at the gate are up from $6 and $10 last year, not $5 and $10, as we erroneously reported last week.
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