Hit pa­rade

The sorry record of Arkansas’ state trea­surer

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE - Paul Green­berg Paul Green­berg is the Pulitzer Prize-win­ning ed­i­to­rial writer and colum­nist for the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette.

Just when did In­no­cent Reader no­tice the re­cur­ring bad news that this state’s trea­surer, the (dis)Honor­able Den­nis Mil­li­gan, per­sists in de­scrib­ing as good news?

Was it when he had trou­ble pay­ing all the bills he’d ac­cu­mu­lated in the state’s name? What, him worry? It’s only the state’s money that he’s spend­ing — that is, yours, Mr. and Ms. Arkansas Tax­payer — for as long as it holds out.

Var­i­ous leg­is­la­tors don’t al­ways go tamely along with Mr. Mil­li­gan’s well-known games. The pres­i­dent pro tem of the state Se­nate, the Hon. and honor­able Jonathan Dis­mang, pride of Searcy, Ark., told Mr. Mil­li­gan at one point: “I feel like I’m miss­ing some­thing be­cause you’ve in­curred debt to a law firm that you didn’t have the money to pay, and now you’re com­ing be­fore us and ask­ing [us] to pay the bill.”

Bruce Maloch, the state sen­a­tor from Magnolia, added his voice to the grow­ing cho­rus of con­cern as he tried to ex­plain the prob­lem to hap­less Mr. Mil­li­gan, who was play­ing oh-so-in­no­cent: “Our is­sue is the fact that, when you know you’re get­ting close to run­ning out of money, you come and get [an] ap­pro­pri­a­tion be­fore you spend the money. You put your­selves in a le­gal limbo of spend­ing money with­out ap­pro­pri­a­tion. You put the Leg­is­la­ture in a bind.”

Some of the lower-downs in the over­staffed trea­surer’s of­fice of­fered var­i­ous ex­cuses for this kind of shoddy per­for­mance on their part, but not any real rea­son. For ex­am­ple, Mr. Mil­li­gan’s chief deputy, Ja­son Brady, claimed he’d known about the prob­lem since Jan­uary, but the leg­isla­tive ses­sion had made it im­pos­si­ble for him to meet with the riled leg­is­la­tors till the mid­dle of May. All of which is about as cred­i­ble a story as the dog’s hav­ing eaten his home­work.

Kim Ham­mer, a state rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Ben­ton, wanted to know if the trea­surer’s of­fice was try­ing to hide some­thing, which is un­likely. These peo­ple are so in­ept they couldn’t even hide the ev­i­dence of their own in­ep­ti­tude. Still an­other chief deputy on Mr. Mil­li­gan’s bulging staff, Grant Wal­lace, ex­plained that he was much too busy to pay at­ten­tion to busi­ness. Or as he put it in a nicer way: “There was no at­tempt to hide these charges. You’re in the midst of a le­gal bat­tle and you’re do­ing what you can to pro­tect the in­ter­est of the state at that time.”

Be­sides, added Chief Deputy Trea­surer No. 1 Brady, his boss had al­ready pre­vailed in one jury trial in fed­eral court, though an­other one was still go­ing on in state court.

So if In­no­cent Reader is hav­ing trou­ble fol­low­ing all these (non)ex­pla­na­tions from the state trea­surer’s of­fice, it ap­pears the trea­surer’s of­fice with all its per­son­nel may be at least as con­fused. Its chief le­gal coun­sel, T.J. Fowler, set­tled for say­ing that all this lit­i­ga­tion was just too much for any one per­son to fol­low. If the past is any pro­logue, the trea­surer’s of­fice will soon be re­quest­ing even more staff to han­dle the prob­lems its staff has caused.

The only sure win­ner in all this con­fu­sion has got to be the law firms that are rak­ing it in be­cause of our state trea­surer’s an­tics, aka Mil­li­gan’s Shenani­gans — which may sound like the name of an Ir­ish band but would be a fit­ting de­scrip­tion of what our state trea­surer has been al­lowed to in­dulge in for too long. The list of law firms that have prof­ited from his mis­ad­ven­tures is long and pres­ti­gious and may be far from com­plete even now. But just to men­tion a few: There’s the well-known Mitchell-Williams firm. And there’s the Rose Law firm that was at the cen­ter of the Clin­ton scan­dals of in­deli­ble mem­ory. And surely there are more bills to come as the on­go­ing scan­dal that is Den­nis Mil­li­gan’s ad­min­is­tra­tion of his high of­fice con­tin­ues to un­fold.

How much longer will this af­fair of Mil­li­gan ver­sus Mil­li­gan drag on? Prob­a­bly till the last deputy trea­surer, as­sis­tant to the as­sis­tant file clerk and of­fi­cial spokesper­son for the state trea­surer’s of­fice has grown old and gray, fi­nally dy­ing off only to be suc­ceeded by sep­a­rate but equal in­com­pe­tents.

If the Leg­is­la­ture didn’t al­ready have its hands full deal­ing with the ex­tra-ju­di­cial an­tics of the Rev. and Judge Wen­dell Grif­fen, it might well spend its time and what lit­tle pa­tience it has left get­ting ready to im­peach the state’s trea­surer. The real shame is that the Mil­li­gans and Grif­f­ens tend to take the spot­light off all those true pub­lic ser­vants who have earned the state’s trust, not abused it.

All of which ex­plains why Den­nis Mil­li­gan, with the ex­cep­tion of Wen­dell Grif­fen, re­mains our fa­vorite can­di­date for im­peach­ment by the Leg­is­la­ture he’s played so many tricks on.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.