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No Confidence (Editorial)

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We’d like to believe Dr. Carlos Roman, who told Arkansas Business in March that “I don’t extort my friendships for money or favors.” Roman, one of five members of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission, was addressing questions that had arisen about his scoring of applications for growers’ licenses.

But in June, it was revealed that Roman had accused an unsuccessful applicant, Natural State Agronomics, of trying to bribe him — a bribe he said he didn’t accept, although he did give the company the second-highest score among the 95 growers’ applications he judged.

And on Oct. 13, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported on a secret video recording that Natural State Agronomics, owned by Ken Shollmier, made of a March meeting between him and Roman. Shollmier said he recorded the meeting to try to catch Roman soliciting a bribe from him. Shollmier said that he never offered Roman a bribe but that Roman had requested a loan from him, which Roman denies.

Roman told the newspaper that “he had felt pressured into meeting Shollmier twice — once before scoring applications and once after.”

In the video, Roman explains to Shollmier why he thinks the other commissioners gave his application poor marks.

While the video shows no bribe offers or solicitations, it reveals that despite efforts to conceal the identities of applicants to prevent bias, commissioners “could identify who owned the companies behind certain applications … .” And it reveals Roman giving Shollmier a copy of the highest-ranked application, though Roman said it was the same redacted copy available to the public.

The video further clouds the process of choosing winners of the valuable cultivators’ permits. And though Roman may have done nothing wrong, appearances matter if the public is to have any confidence at all in the process. Roman should resign.

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