Opinion sought as to legality of Altes’ job as state drug director

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 111 views 

Sebastian County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Shue has asked Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge for an opinion on the legality of Sebastian County Quorum Court Member Denny Altes being named the state’s Drug Director.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on May 14 named Altes, a former legislator from Fort Smith who was elected to the Sebastian County Quorum Court in November, as the state’s Drug Director. The State Drug Director oversees and coordinates the activities of the Arkansas State Drug Abuse and Prevention Coordinating Council and is responsible for coordination of all alcohol and drug abuse prevention/treatment initiatives in Arkansas.

Altes, 67, served in the House of Representatives from 1999-2003 and represented Senate District 13 from 2003 to 2011. He returned to the House of Representatives in 2011 and represented the 76th District until January 2015.

In a letter sent Wednesday (May 20) to AG Rutledge, Shue noted that Altes’ role on the Quorum Court could have potential financial conflicts with his new job as drug director.

“In that regard, Sebastian County has a Drug Task Force (the Twelfth Judicial Drug Task Force) and two Sebastian County employees are funded by grants that come from both Federal and State funds – the Twelfth Judicial District Drug Task Force Coordinator (through the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office) and an Investigator (through the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office). These are budgeted, salaried positions that must be voted on each year,” Shue noted in the letter.

He added in his letter to Rutledge that Altes’ position as a Quorum Court member places him in the budgeting process with funds that come also come from his newly appointed state office.

Shue’s three questions to Rutledge are:
• “Is it a violation of the Arkansas Constitution for the Arkansas Drug Director to serve as a member of the Sebastian County Quorum Court?”;

• “Is it a violation of any statue for the Arkansas Drug Director to serve as a member of the Sebastian County Quorum Court?”; and

• “Is it a violation of the common law doctrine of incompatibility for the Arkansas Drug Director to serve as a member of the Sebastian County Quorum Court?”

Shue told The City Wire he is not alleging there is or is not a conflict, but chose to seek an opinion out of “an abundance of caution.”

J.R. Davis, spokesman for Gov. Hutchinson, said it would be Thursday before the office would have comment or decide to comment. Davis did confirm that the office of Drug Director is a full-time job based in Little Rock, but does not have a rule requiring the job holder to live in Little Rock.

Altes’ appointment drew criticism from the Arkansas office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The group referred to a November 2007 e-mail written by Altes in which he commented about being “overrun” by illegal immigrants and “out populated by the blacks.”

Altes wrote: “All politics are local and I am for sending the illegals back but we know that is impossible. We are where we were with the black folks after the revolutionary war. We can't send them back and the more we piss them off the worse it will be in the future. So what do we do. I say the governor needs to try to enforce the law and sign the letter of understanding with the INS and at least we can send the troublemakers back. Sure we are being overrun but we are being out populated by the blacks also. What is the answer. Only time will tell.”

ACLU officials questioned whether Altes should “be put in any position of public trust.”

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