Making Chumps of the People (Editorial)

More than we ever knew appears to hang on the notion of “criminal intent.”

Neither Reggie Corbitt, the former head of the Little Rock Wastewater Utility, nor Stan Miller, a former operations manager at the utility, will face criminal charges for spending almost $29,000 in public money to accommodate Miller’s mobile homes, dog and girlfriend on utility property, along with some other funny business. That’s because, said the office of Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley, “we just didn’t see we could prove criminal intent.”

In forwarding the case to the prosecutor, Little Rock police noted that state law “prohibits any city official or employee from receiving water, electricity or other services without paying for it at the same rate and manner that the general public is required to do so,” the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which first broke open the story, noted.

But Chief Deputy Prosecutor John Johnson told the paper that “since Corbitt indicated that Miller lived at the plant to supervise employees and benefit the utility, and since Miller had Corbitt’s approval for the purchases, it’s hard to say there was criminal intent to defraud.”

The actions were enough to get the two fired from the utility but not enough to take them to trial. Now, we’re not lawyers, but apparently in some cases it’s legal to cheat your employer as long as you didn’t mean to.

As we noted in February, Jegley has previously declined to prosecute a well-connected “public servant”: Bill Shirron, the director of the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System who publicly admitted to faking minutes of a trustees meeting, a felony under state law, back in 2002.

Just because Jegley’s refusal last week to stand up for the people who voted him into office isn’t surprising doesn’t mean it’s not disappointing — again.