The Mark Darr Memorial State Checkbook open line | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Mark Darr Memorial State Checkbook open line

Posted By on Sun, Jan 12, 2014 at 5:26 PM

The Sunday line is open. Lovely day, yes?

RUNNING UP THE LEGAL TAB: Secretary of State Mark Martin is piling up outside legal costs, rather than using attorney general.
  • RUNNING UP THE LEGAL TAB: Secretary of State Mark Martin is piling up outside legal costs, rather than using attorney general.
* BLUE HOG REPORT COMBNG THROUGH THE SECRETARY OF STATE'S RECORDS: Matt Campbell, the lawyer and Blue Hog Report blogger, has availed himself of a political legacy of Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, who'll be leaving office Feb. 1 on account of expense account and campaign account violations uncovered by Campbell.

Blue Hog, using the "state checkbook" whose creation Darr championed (without thinking, apparently, that it could bite his own self in the behind)  found that Secretary of State Mark Martin continues to spends thousands of dollars on outside legal counsel, $26,000 or so in the last month.

This, despite several lawyers on staff (including one, A.J. Kelley, who's managed to find time to double dip taxpayers with outside work as attorney for Fairfield Bay). But the major question is whether Martin now acknowledges the law that Campbell dug up in an FOI lawsuit against Martin — that requires the secretary of state to get clearance from the attorney general first if he doesn't want to use the state's lawyer. Circuit Judge Tim Fox thought it clear enough to disqualify the Quattlebaum law firm — chiefly a Republican running buddy who serves on the state Election Commission with Martin — from defending Martin because attorney general clearance hadn't been obtained first. That firm is back on Martin's teat, according to Blue Hog's record search.

Campbell is skeptical that Martin has obtained proper clearance, if only because of Mark Martin's serial disregard for legal niceties and sound office operation since he became SOS. Also, to ask permission now would be to admit he should have done so on earlier outside expenditures.

I"ve sent a query to the secretary of state on whether proper clearance was obtained or if the office now thinks Campbell's argument and the ruling by Fox or inoperative for other legal reasons. There's a broader theme here, regardless, which Blue Hog outlines:

The galling part of all of this? While Mark Darr certainly broke rules and laws and needed to resign because of those transgressions, his legal and ethical breaches were a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of public money that Mark Martin has wasted over the past three years. Martin’s bill for outside counsel alone over the past three years dwarfs Darr’s improper use of state credit cards by orders of magnitude.

Questions and FOI requests will follow, particularly as to the specific need for Martin to get outside counsel worth $26,000 in the last month or so. At $300 an hour — a generous estimate of Tall Building Little Rock lawyering — that's a lot of contract labor.

click to enlarge CHARLIE STRONG: Batesville roots touted in profile.
  • CHARLIE STRONG: Batesville roots touted in profile.
* A PLUG FOR BATESVILLE: A son of Batesville proudly passes along a link to a Houston Chronicle profile of Batesville native Charlie Strong, the new football coach at Texas. It makes tBatesville itself sound like something the Cleaver family would envy, even though Strong came from a poor, single-mother household.

Strong's family shared a cramped house with his aunt, also a single mom, and her six kids. There was a mix of Strongs, Browns, and Rameys among the kids living there.

It was an impoverished and disadvantaged home.

Thankfully, there was Batesville.

This town's reality belies the popular belief that small Arkansas towns are hotbeds of racial unrest. Black and white kids played together even before school desegregation in 1961.

"We didn't look upon them as black kids or white kids," said dentist Bill Beller, who is white. "They were just 'our kids.'  "

Strong was a good example of that. As a young boy, his best friend, who was white, was Steve Elumbaugh.

"Those two were always running around, playing in the lawn (between the Elumbaugh house and Strong's uncle Arthur Montgomery's home)," said Mayor Rick Elumbaugh, Steve Elumbaugh's cousin.

It continued when Strong played organized sports.

There's lots more about Batesville and UCA, all warm stuff.

I was also happy to learn a nice anecdote about an athletic hero from my youth in Southwest Louisiana. Turns out that R.C. Slocum, who I cheered as a tight end at McNeese State in Lake Charles, La., and who started his coaching career at Lake Charles High in 1968, the year I graduated,  played a pivotal role in Strong's rise in coaching ranks.  Slocum,who grew up 30 miles down the road from Lake Charles, in Orange, Texas, was by then coaching at Texas A&M. He recommended his graduate assistant Strong for a coaching job in Southern Illinois. Southern Illinois said it couldn't afford to fly Strong up for an interview.

"I said, 'I tell you what,'  " Slocum said. "  'I'll buy him a plane ticket if you can give him 20 minutes. That's how strongly I feel about him.' Ray said, 'You can't beat that deal.'

"I got Charles a ticket and flew him up there. And Ray hired him."

Feel-good stuff. Hope Strong is a winner at Texas.

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