News expected in attorney general's race | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

News expected in attorney general's race

Posted By on Wed, Sep 17, 2014 at 3:34 PM

CAMPAIGNING: Before Leslie Rutledge went to work for the Huckabee presidential campaign, she volunteered for him on a trip to the Iowa caucuses.
  • CAMPAIGNING: Before Leslie Rutledge went to work for the Huckabee presidential campaign, she volunteered for him on a trip to the Iowa caucuses.
Early warning: the state Department of Human Services is expected to release today material I requested under an FOI request last weekend related to Republican attorney general nominee Leslie Rutledge's work as a staff attorney at DHS.

It is expected to shed some light on her work at the agency, now an issue in the race.

It was first reported here that the releasable portion of her personnel file showed a note from her supervisor after her abrupt resignation Dec. 3, 2007 that she not be rehired by DHS. The form was coded with a number that indicated "gross misconduct."

State law limits personnel record release unless an employee is fired or suspended. DHS has declined to talk further about the circumstances of Rutledge's departure. She said she left to work for Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign. She speculated that her supervisor was unhappy because of lack of notice of her departure from a job handling cases in juvenile court. She later told the Democrat-Gazette that perhaps politics were involved. She'd gone to work when Mike Huckabee was governor. When she left, a Democrat, Mike Beebe was governor. She speculated her work for a Republican presidential candidate might have been involved in the adverse notes. Beebe said he'd never heard of Rutledge until she ran for attorney general, so politics on his part couldn't have played a role in her evaluation.

Rutledge has also complained she wasn't given notice of the notes added to her personnel file. But she was no longer an emloyee. I'm told by other state employees that information is routinely added to personnel files — accounts of exit discussions, for example — after an employee leaves.

I followed my first FOI request with a request for e-mail to and from Rutledge's state e-mail account, stipulating that mail pertaining to client matters could be withheld. Others have requested the same information. It has taken several days to compile. Rutledge was notified of the requests, as the law requires, in a letter from DHS on Monday.

DHS spokeswoman Amy Webb has said the material, in both paper and digital form, should be released today. 

Nate Steel, Rutledge's Democratic opponent, has been mild on the subject to date, except to urge voters to compare her qualifications (a resume with a series of short-term, mostly political jobs) with his record as a Nashville lawyer and prosecutor.

I have asked Rutledge — who's vowed an investigation of DHS over the matter if elected — if she would voluntarily agree to release of any internal documents by superiors that bear on her job performance at the agency. She has not responded.

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