story by Roby Brock, a TCW content partner and owner of Talk Business
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel – whose 2014 gubernatorial bid has been threatened by his admission of an “inappropriate” relationship with a Hot Springs attorney – released a smattering of documents after the close of business on Friday night.
Office spokesman Aaron Sadler provided records in response to FOI requests the office had received during the week since McDaniel acknowledged he had “limited interaction” with Hot Springs attorney Andrea “Andi” Davis.
The requests have centered around McDaniel’s office handling cases in which Davis was opposing counsel as well as McDaniel’s travel schedule. According to Sadler, Davis was the opposing counsel in 5 cases involving the AG’s office.
Sadler provided a lengthy explanation of the documents and the rationale for distributing them.
At no time should our responses to Freedom of Information Act requests be seen as any attempt to conceal information about Attorney General McDaniel’s interaction with Ms. Davis. As you know, the law provides for certain exceptions to disclosure related to our office.
That being said, in this specific instance, the AG thinks it is important to disclose communications involving himself and Ms. Davis related to the office, even though they are not subject to release. Those records are attached to this email.
The simple fact, which I will reiterate, is that the Attorney General had no direct involvement in the cases in which Ms. Davis represented opposing parties.
Inquiries have been made about the AG’s schedule. Although it is not attached, I can tell you that it has been reviewed carefully and it contains no reference to Ms. Davis at any time.
Inquiries have been made about state cell phone records. There are no records or bills that reflect any calls or text messages to or from Ms. Davis on any state cell phone.
The documents released Friday night are a compilation of travel records, phone records, letters and emails from the Attorney General’s office.
One email dated March 7, 2012 from Davis asked for a continuance in a case involving the state veterinarians’ board. In that correspondence, Davis said she had been receiving death threats and “my head is simply not in a place where I am able to work at a good and steady pace.”
She also referenced the death of an “old friend” who “died at my home last Wednesday.”
Davis is listed as a complainant in a murder investigation in Garland County involving the Feb. 29, 2012 shooting death in her front yard of Maxwell Anderson. Davis’ brother, Matthew, is listed as a suspect in the case, which is still under investigation.
Davis has also been involved in a protracted child custody dispute with her ex-husband, Fred Day, a Hot Springs podiatrist. A filing in that domestic dispute that accused Davis of having an affair with McDaniel led to his admission of the relationship, which he said occurred in 2011.
A letter from Davis dated July 13, 2011 asked for a continuance in another case.
“I am cc’ing General McDaniel on this only because the General has precedential familiarity with my moral fiber, which I believe he has ascertained from instances I have spent in his vicinity during various public political functions,” Davis wrote.
McDaniel’s spokesman Aaron Sadler said McDaniel did not respond to the email request and that he never received the letter on which he was copied.
McDaniel made two phone calls to Davis from his office phone, records show. One call was made on Feb. 22, 2011 and lasted 8 minutes.
“The AG has no memory of that call,” Sadler said.
Another call was made on Aug. 17, 2012. That call lasted 20 minutes and was related to a child custody matter Davis was seeking help with.
“The call included both the AG and Special Investigations Division Chief Jason French,” Sadler disclosed.
MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
McDaniel’s handling of the ordeal this week has been to issue statements through campaign or office spokespersons. He has avoided meeting with the press to answer questions directly.
However, the inquiries he’s received from the Arkansas media, his answers to those requests for detail, the nuances in those answers, and his avoidance of an interview or press conference has only stoked additional interest and inquiries.
Political observers and the capitol press corps have begun to speculate that there is much more to the Davis affair or possibly other questions McDaniel would want to avoid in a Q-and-A setting or public appearance.
For example, McDaniel has yet to explain what exactly a “limited interaction” is. He has not defined how he views “inappropriate” as a description of his dealings with Davis.
While McDaniel’s Friday disclosure highlights some office interaction with Davis, it does not confront whether or not he used other potential state resources (personnel, traveling on routine state business matters, etc.) to rendezvous with Davis. The travel records only reflect expenses and do not offer details on whether McDaniel was with Davis in any of those instances.
The disclosure does not answer the question of if he communicated with her on office business through personal means (a personal cell phone, email address, etc.) or in an undocumented way through office staff or state personnel.
McDaniel has not offered an explanation of the affair and his handling of its exposure as a reflection of his judgment and decision-making – key areas for voters to consider related to his desire to be Governor.
These issues will dog McDaniel going forward and eventually he will have to address them publicly. The Arkansas press has been generally respectful of the entire situation by not staking out his residence or office entrances.
But it will be hard to conduct a campaign for Governor without any public appearances or press conferences. The sooner McDaniel addresses the media directly, the better for his self-inflicted damaged candidacy.