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Thanks Legislators (Editorial)

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How often do we get to write a headline like that? Not often enough.

That we are today is in response to a legislative subcommittee’s refusal to review a request from the office of Arkansas Treasurer Dennis Milligan for more taxpayer money to pay $170,000 in legal fees charged by a private law firm.

As reported by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (which remains essential reading), Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang “said Milligan’s office should have gone to legislative leaders months ago to discuss a legal bill that in total tops $330,000, related to lawsuits filed by a former employee.”

The legal bills stem from litigation filed in federal and state courts by David Singer. Singer had alleged that when Milligan fired him in April 2015, he violated the state’s whistleblower law. Singer also accused a Milligan aide, Jim Harris, now retired, of defaming him by saying Singer had “mental problems” and alleged that when Milligan fired Singer, he violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which bars termination based on a disability, real or perceived.

Harris and Milligan were cleared of the defamation and discrimination claim by a federal jury, but Singer’s lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court still hangs over the treasurer’s office.

One legislator sagaciously asked whether it wouldn’t be cheaper to settle the case or use in-house counsel. But Milligan’s employees seem to think going to court is cheaper and that the case’s complexity requires private lawyers — and the fees they rack up.

The case has been a source of embarrassment to the state, including a ridiculous altercation in February 2016 during a deposition that led to Milligan, in a dramatic gesture, donning a sling for his arm.

Dismang told the Democrat-Gazette he expected the treasurer’s office to bring legislators more information about the request. So thanks for doing your job, lawmakers, and keeping an eye out for the taxpayers.

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