A hit job 

SUING: (from left) Lt. Earnest Whitten, Sgt. Derrick Threadgill, Sgt. Willie Davis, Lt. Johnny Gilbert Jr. and lawyer Mike Laux.
  • SUING: (from left) Lt. Earnest Whitten, Sgt. Derrick Threadgill, Sgt. Willie Davis, Lt. Johnny Gilbert Jr. and lawyer Mike Laux.

Quote of the week

"He's in Philadelphia. He's in south Jersey. (Whispered) He needs to go away. He needs to be gone." — An FBI transcript of former Arkansas lobbyist Rusty Cranford included in new federal court documents alleging that Cranford plotted to kill a co-conspirator. The alleged murder target was D.A. Jones, a Pennsylvania consultant who's pleaded guilty to scheming to get money from Preferred Family Healthcare, the Medicaid-enriched nonprofit that made millions providing mental health and other services in Arkansas and neighboring states. Cranford once worked there, too. Cranford has not been charged, but the information is contained in a prosecutor's motion that Cranford be denied bail on an earlier charge. Earlier court filings indicate Cranford played a role in the kickback scheme in which former Republican state Rep. Micah Neal and former Republican state Sen. Jon Woods, both of Springdale, are accused of working with others to channel a portion of state money aimed at Ecclesia College to themselves. Neal has pleaded guilty. Woods is awaiting trial.

Arkansas Works appropriation approved

Last week, unlike previous years, the Arkansas legislature approved the budget for Arkansas Works, the state's unique version of Medicaid expansion, without a standoff. There were three vacancies in the Senate, which made the prospect of achieving the required supermajority to pass the budget appear daunting. But last week, two Republican senators who had opposed Arkansas Works for years voted for the appropriation, giving it approval 27-2 with no votes to spare. The measure passed 79-15 in the House of Representatives. Governor Hutchinson said the passage of the appropriation was owed to the Trump administration's approval of a waiver that requires Arkansas Works recipients ages 19-49 to prove they are working at least 80 hours a month. If they don't comply, they could lose coverage for up to a year.

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Civil rights suit filed against Little Rock

Saying the Little Rock Police Department is riddled with racism, attorney Mike Laux announced March 12 that he has filed suit against the city on behalf of three black LRPD officers and one former LRPD officer who say they were discriminated against through a lack of promotions, lower salaries and uneven discipline when compared to their white counterparts on the force. Laux said two other black officers will join the plaintiffs once those officers receive approval to sue from the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Brian S. Miller.

Laux said that in addition to racial discrimination in hiring and promotions, there is also "a component of age" when it comes to advancement of black officers at LRPD, with black officers told to "be patient" and wait their turn for promotions. After years on the force, Laux said, some of those officers are told, "Guess what? You're too old."

The complaint was filed in federal court on behalf of LRPD officers Sgt. Willie Davis, Lt. Earnest Whitten, Sgt. Derrick Threadgill and former LRPD officer Jackie Parker. Laux said Lt. Johnny Gilbert Jr. and Capt. Tonya Washington would join the complaint as soon as they received letters from the EEOC saying they had the right to sue.

Shepherd wins speaker's race

The Arkansas House cast secret ballots after adjournment Monday to pick a speaker for the 2019 legislative session, and the winner was Rep. Matthew Shepherd, an El Dorado Republican.

He bested Rep. Andy Davis, also a Republican, who carried the baggage of being from Little Rock.

Shepherd is speaker-elect. Rep. Jeremy Gillam (R-Judsonia) remains speaker through this year. He is not seeking re-election.



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