From Rob Moritz with our content partner, the Arkansas News Bureau:
The chief judge of the Arkansas Court of Appeals said today (Tuesday) he does not plan to file an ethics complaint against a state lawmaker who suggested to a court clerk that he might hold up a state agency budget in relation to a case now before the court.
“I suppose a complaint could be filed with the Ethics Commission, or something,” Chief Judge Larry Vaught said. “I have not planned to file anything as of this moment.”
Vaught said he did not think Rep. Denny Altes, R-Fort Smith, knew what he was saying could be interpreted as a threat.
“To be quite honest with you, I think Rep. Altes — and don’t take this wrong — is working from ignorance more than trying to do something wrong,” Vaught said. “But it’s been aired in the press, and that’s probably as far as it’s going to go as far as I’m concerned. If somebody else does (file a complaint), I don’t know.”
Altes, who did not return repeated calls seeking comment Monday or Tuesday, admitted last week to saying in a telephone call he made to a court employee that he might have to hold up the state Department of Workforce Services budget until the state’s unemployment system is fixed.
Altes’ son, Robert, owner of Altes Sanitation Services, has appealed a state Board of Review ruling in an unemployment dispute involving the company to the Court of Appeals.
The review board dismissed the company’s appeal of a decision by the Arkansas Appeal Tribunal, which overturned DWS’ ruling denying benefits to a former employee at the sanitation company.
According to reports, Altes said his comments were not meant as a threat and Linda Boone, chief deputy in the clerk of the court’s office, said she could not recall if the lawmaker mentioned a specific agency’s budget.
The Ethics Commission’s executive director, Graham Sloan, has declined to say if an ethics claim has been filed against Altes. He did say that a state statute “potentially applicable to this situation” prohibits elected officials from “trying to get somebody something they are not entitled to using your position as leverage.”
Talk Business blogger Michael Cook has opined on the subject. You can read his thoughts at this link.