Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Mays resigns from Parole Board
LITTLE ROCK — Little Rock attorney Richard Mays Jr. ended his eight-year tenure on the state Parole Board on Friday, citing “professional and personal obligations” in a brief resignation letter.
Mays had been the subject of both an internal review by the board’s lone investigator two years ago and an administrative review of his performance and conduct this year after questions were raised about the handling of a Parole Board vote regarding one of his criminal clients in 2013. Fellow board members alleged Mays had tampered with public documents and misled colleagues in an effort to release the client from prison.
When asked this spring about allegations, J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Gov. Asa Hutchinson, said Hutchinson was aware of the allegations and they were of great “concern.”
Davis said on April 16 Hutchinson had asked Parole Board Chairman John Felts to conduct a review of Mays’ behavior as a board member and “make recommendations” to Hutchinson.
“If the facts [of the 2013 review] are correct, the actions of Richard Mays were certainly unethical,” Davis said then. “But the type of possible behavior exhibited by Mr. Mays indicates that more than likely there were
On Monday, another spokesman for the governor, Kane Webb, said Hutchinson met with Mays on Friday and thanked him for his work.
Kane said he didn’t know what role Felts’ review played in Mays’ resignation and did not know its status.
Webb said there were some concerns expressed about Mays’ behavior outside the board but “those concerns had been dismissed and, to our knowledge, were not a factor in any resignation.”
Hutchinson was out of town Monday at a conference and unavailable for comment.
Mays did not return a telephone call Monday seeking further comment.
Gov. Mike Beebe appointed Mays to the seven-member board in 2007. His term was to end in 2018. The Parole Board position paid $85,856 a year.
On Monday, Parole Board administrator Solomon Graves confirmed Felts’ review had been completed and given to Hutchinson’s office, but said he did not know any details about the report’s contents.
Felts was unavailable for comment, Graves said.
Mays, who also chairs the Little Rock Wastewater commission, is the son of former Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Richard Mays. The two also work together at the same law downtown Little Rock law firm.
The younger Mays first became Ledrew Staggers’ attorney in 2009 for drug and battery charges and also represented the man in a 2013 case in which Staggers pleaded guilty to first- degree terroristic threatening, fleeing and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Staggers was sentenced to two concurrent six-year prison terms.
When Staggers came up for parole in October 2013, the screener handling his application recommended the board deny his parole, and, according to the board’s own internal review, the members did just that.
The internal review, conducted by current board member John Belken, goes on to say Mays admitted to destroying the record of the vote that denied Staggers parole and then lobbying other members to sign off on his release from prison.
But Staggers were never released, and the board later revoted to deny his parole.
Board policy at the time stated commissioners should not involve themselves in parole cases in which they have served as counsel for either party and they should recuse if they had personal or professional relationships with a parole case.
Beebe’s off ice later learned of Mays’ role in Staggers’ parole case, and Beebe’s chief of staff, Morril Harriman, met with Mays and told him such behavior was unacceptable, according to past interviews with Felts.
Mays continued to represent criminal defendants while on the board and even advertised his position on the board on his firm’s website.
According to Parole Board records, Mays voted with four other commissioners to release Lillian Marshall from incarceration on Jan. 14. As with Staggers, Mays had represented Marshall in criminal court.
Earlier this year, Felts said he was upset by Mays’ involvement in the Marshall case and he had warned him in advance to recuse himself from the vote.
“At that time I told him, ‘You’ve got a case in January that the record reflects that you represented the inmate in court. Be careful. And don’t vote on this case. And he assured me he wouldn’t.
“But he did it anyway,” Felts said earlier this year.
In early April, Hutchinson signed Act 895, which among other things, prohibits members of the board from having a job outside of the board.
It also gives the board’s chairman more power to conduct internal reviews of fellow members and make recommendations to the governor’s office for removing a member from the board for derelict job performance.
Mays signed a form on April 16 stating that he would suspend his legal work.
But Mays continued to represent at least two criminal clients, according to court records, making legal filings as recently as July 15.
On Monday, Graves, the Parole Board administrator, said he was unaware of how soon Hutchinson would fill Mays’ position. Mays’ parole caseload would be divided equally among members, including Felts, he said.