Favorite

Mr. Smith goes to LR 

Republican Rep. Roger Smith of Hot Springs Village takes offense at the suggestion he's a poster child for old-school Arkansas politics. You decide. Term-limited, Smith has taken actions for more than a year that will help him land an $85,000-a-year golden parachute, directorship of the $500 million Arkansas Local Police and Fire Retirement System. Smith, a retired insurance agent and former volunteer fireman, began building credits with police and fire retirees long ago. He's passed a couple dozen pieces of legislation to benefit cops and firemen, who now constitute a majority of the board that hires the director. Police/fire control of the board took some doing. The board once was split between two fire and police employees and two mayors, plus an at-large swing vote for the occasional employer/employee rifts. Smith was a sponsor of legislation in 2003 to add a police and a fire rep, giving those employees a sure 4-3 majority. As it happens, Smith waved the board-expansion bill out of a committee he chairs without a roll call. A lobbyist who opposed the bill said Smith got him out of the room on a pretext before a voice vote by insufficient legislators (Smith disputes some of this). Final touch: Smith's name was on the letter giving Gov. Mike Huckabee the names of the two people appointed to the new seats. Cathryn Hinshaw, who had led the system since it was established, knew the board-packing bill meant trouble. She lobbied against it. That ticked off the board, which forced her to resign. Smith was ready. He'd already been making important contacts, along with his pal Ted Mullenix, a lobbyist for cops and former Republican legislator. The pitch seemed to be that Smith should be guaranteed the job. Smith insists the job sought him, not vice versa. Smith also insists it wasn't lobbying when he took a police official out to lunch; dined with an at-large trustee (including the night before a Board meeting to cull applications), and helped the at-large trustee on a pheasant hunt on a Smith family farm in Nebraska. One of the trustees didn't appreciate the attention. Police trustee Bill Milburn of Conway believed Smith and Mullenix put him in a hot box when they met with him. In an e-mail to another Board member, he described it as unethical pressure by a sitting legislator and a lobbyist. So now the math gets tricky. If Smith loses Milburn's vote, the System board, which is supposed to meet March 18 on six finalists, still splits 4-3 in his favor. But … the four votes include that of Charles Lawrence, who is not qualified to serve because he lost his firefighter job in Texarkana. But … the Board refuses to declare the seat vacant. Finally, only a tortured technical argument that this public pension fund isn't a state agency would allow Smith to go to work there before his legislative term ends in 2005. The details are really irrelevant. A smell attaches when a legislator jumps directly into a fat public office influenced by his own legislation - with help from a lobbyist with a financial interest in that office.
Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016
  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017

Most Shared

  • 'Cemetery angel' Ruth Coker Burks featured in new short film

    Ruth Coker Burks, the AIDS caregiver and activist memorably profiled by David Koon as the cemetery angel in Arkansas Times in 2015, is now the subject of a short film made by actress Rose McGowan.
  • Buyer remorse

    Out here in flyover country, you can't hardly go by the feed store without running into a reporter doing one of those Wisdom of the Heartland stories.
  • Not Whitewater

    Just think: If Democrats had turned out 78,000 more votes in three states in November, people could be reveling today in the prospect of impeaching and convicting President Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump, as some Republican lawmakers had promised to try to do if she won.
  • Head-shaking

    Another edition of so-much-bad-news-so-little space.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Head-shaking

    Another edition of so-much-bad-news-so-little space.
    • Jul 27, 2017
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • We're No. 1! in vote suppression

    It's not often that Arkansas can claim national leadership, so give Secretary of State Mark Martin credit for something.

    • Jul 13, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Buyer remorse

    • It's just that always when somebody criticizes trump, you bring up Hillary. Why? Why am…

    • on July 28, 2017
  • Re: Buyer remorse

    • Oh, my - I don't hate Hillary Clinton - I feel she is damaged goods…

    • on July 28, 2017
  • Re: Buyer remorse

    • IBS, you're from Chicago, right? Hillary's from Chicago. Your monomania against Hillary is puzzling and…

    • on July 27, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation