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

Sign up for the Daily Update email

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • LR charter school application withdrawn for this year

    Friendship Aspire Academy has withdrawn its request to move up plans to open a charter school in Little Rock by a year to take advantage of a vacant building being remodeled by the Walton Family Foundation for another charter operator that withdrew.
    • Jun 20, 2018
  • Another prison death under investigation

    John Howell, 58, who was serving a life sentence for capital murder in Garland County, died shortly before 7 p.m. Tuesday after being found unresponsive on the floor of his barracks at the Cummins Unit, a spokesman said.
    • Jun 20, 2018
  • With Trump, of course, there's a catch

    So the heroic Donald Trump proposes a compromise to tearing families apart - jailing them indefinitely.
    • Jun 20, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Double-talk

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

    A convergence of events in recent days signaled again how far we have come and how far we have yet to go in civil rights.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • The Oval outhouse

    One thing all Americans finally can agree upon is that public discourse has coarsened irretrievably in the era of Donald Trump and largely at his instance.
    • Jan 18, 2018

Latest in Max Brantley

  • The Arkansas swamp

    The Arkansas Capitol is a fetid swamp of corruption and the bipartisan lack of concern tells you plenty.
    • Jun 14, 2018
  • The return of 'Freedom of Choice'

    A federal court in El Dorado soon will decide if unalloyed "Freedom of Choice" may be legal state policy, even when it encourages school segregation.
    • Jun 7, 2018
  • Election trends

    Items of interest that emerged from primary and "nonpartisan" judicial elections last week.
    • May 31, 2018
  • More »

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Him, again

    • That's why it is better to bag babes at the bigger libraries. You get a…

    • on June 20, 2018
  • Re: Legislative boodlers

    • The U6 unemployment rate is still at 8%, partly because they can get benefits and…

    • on June 19, 2018
  • Re: Him, again

    • Regardless of my success or lack of it, I've been way ahead of Trump all…

    • on June 19, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation