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Arkansas attorney general releases records from agency work

August 23, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ attorney general on Wednesday released the remaining personnel records from her work at a state agency, including a form that she said incorrectly states she was discharged from the job for gross misconduct.

The eight pages released by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge regarding her work at the state Department of Human Services also include a notice she was receiving a written warning for not returning a social worker’s calls and a “counseling statement” over complaints regarding a case she handled.

Rutledge, a Republican seeking re-election, worked for the agency in 2006 and 2007. In response to a lawsuit filed by an official with the Arkansas Democratic Party, a state judge Monday ordered DHS to release Rutledge’s full personnel file. The written order enforcing that ruling hasn’t been issued, and DHS has not said whether it’ll appeal. Rutledge has said the file was altered without her knowledge after she left, and said she believes DHS should appeal the ruling to protect the rights of public workers.

“That’s the sort of thing that could stifle good, honest people from wanting to work in the public sphere,” she said at a news conference.

Rutledge resigned from DHS in December 2007 to work on former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s unsuccessful presidential campaign. Days after she left, her personnel file was amended to indicate that she was terminated for “gross misconduct,” according to previously released portions of Rutledge’s personnel file.

The documents released Wednesday include a form filled out by a DHS employee when Rutledge applied for unemployment benefits in 2009 in Washington that states she was discharged from DHS for gross misconduct. Rutledge also released emails among DHS employees following her departure acknowledged her resignation.

The file includes a “notice of disciplinary action” for Rutledge, citing a complaint that she didn’t return calls from a social worker subpoenaed to testify in a child welfare hearing. The letter, however, isn’t signed by Rutledge and her superior at the time. She said she remembered the case, but did not recall any disciplinary action. It also includes a “counseling statement” over her handling of a case, including a complaint that she was late to a court hearing. According to the form, the counseling is not considered disciplinary action.

In another document, Rutledge’s job performance is evaluated as “satisfactory.”

DHS Spokeswoman Amy Webb said she could not confirm whether the pages released were the ones at issue in the case since she doesn’t have Rutledge’s consent or a judge’s order. Webb said the agency sent Rutledge her full file Wednesday morning.

Rutledge is running against Democrat Mike Lee in the November election. The lawsuit seeking her records was filed by Reed Brewer, the communications director for the state Democratic Party. An attorney for Brewer said he has contacted the judge in the case to ensure the file is released.

“The FOIA lawsuit forced Attorney General Rutledge to finally do what she should have done four years ago,” attorney Chris Burks said. “The public has long deserved to know why the Department of Human Services determined she committed ‘gross misconduct’ and could not be rehired as an attorney.”

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