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Saline Clerk Milligan responds to criticism

Posted by Max Brantley on Mon, Sep 10, 2012 at 9:16 AM

DENNIS MILLIGAN
  • DENNIS MILLIGAN

DENNIS MILLIGAN
  • DENNIS MILLIGAN
I shared Friday an anonymous letter repeating several criticisms of Saline Circuit Clerk Dennis Milligan's handling of foreclosure sales after he reaped some favorable publicity here and elsewhere for swearing off fees he could receive for conducting the sales. The situation is a bit more complicated than reporting indicated, it seems fair to say at a minimum.

Milligan responds in the following letter, putting criticism down to the former circuit clerk, Doug Kidd. (Aside to Mr. Milligan: A glowing reference from Dave Elswick falls somewhere short of convincing proof of anything except nuttiness.)

In 2010, I defeated Doug Kidd, a Democrat who had done very little with that office in the 10 years he had been there.

Doug Kidd and a few friends are still very bitter about his defeat. One of those friends is a circuit judge in Saline County who refused to swear me in on January 1, 2011.

During the Republican primary this year, an unsigned letter was posted on the mysaline.com website with a wide range of unsubstantiated accusations. Many horrible things were posted about me on that website by people who would not reveal their real names.

Right before the primary election, a letter was sent to at least one Republican in Hot Springs Village. The letter was an obvious forgery that said my opponent planned to change parties after she took office. The letter was done so it would make it appear I had forged it.

At the time, I had polling results showing I had a comfortable lead over my opponent. I had no motive to send out such a letter. It actually hurt my campaign. This has been covered by the Saline Courier in great detail.

Now, you have received another unsigned letter making accusations against me. Do you see a pattern developing here?

I was not a party in the lawsuit mentioned in that your letter. The lawsuit did question that sale. The judge ruled the sale was done legally. The county attorney’s research brought the attorney general’s opinion to my attention. For me, it was the last straw on the commissioner sales.

I have always been uncomfortable receiving money beyond my salary for doing what I considered was part of my job as circuit clerk. My first solution was to give that money to good causes of my choice. This is documented on my website.

It is also morally questionable that elected officials benefit from the misfortune of others. There is never a happy situation that causes a court-ordered sale of property. It is just wrong for an elected official to personally benefit from the misfortune of people he or she is elected to represent. With the economy being as bad as it has been since 2008, circuit clerks have benefited a lot.

After reading the attorney general’s opinion I decided it was wrong to take that money even if it was going to good causes.

This is not the first time I have done something because I thought the way it had been done was wrong. The Legislature passed an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act that denies prisoners the right to receive copies of public records under the FOI.

I decided that those in prison should have copies of their court records if they requested them. I did not gain politically for taking this stand. I did that because it was the right thing to do.

One of my campaign promises was to bring the technology of the circuit clerk’s office into this century. When I took office in 2011 some of the computers were still running Windows 2000. That has been changed.

More than 1,000 pieces of mail go out each week, but there was no postage machine. Each letter had a stamp put on it. Now our postage machine speeds the process.

I’ve worked hard to use technology to improve the efficiency of my office. All the public court records are now on line. By the end of the year, all of the real estate records will be online. Along with the real estate records, we are working with other county officials to have a “one-stop-shop” page that allows someone who doesn’t know which office website to search to easily find any Saline County public record on from a single site.

Because of my leadership, Saline County is the first to do this. In five years, most of our counties will be doing it.

Last year, I began using a notification system that tells jurors when they are needed for jury service by text, e-mail or a call to their home or cell phone. Before, it was the jurors’ responsibility to call a machine and listen to a message to determine when they needed to come in for jury selection.

This took the burden of knowing when to come in for jury duty off the potential juror and placed it where it should be—on the circuit clerk.

I anticipate soon it will be announced that I have been nominated for a national award for improving the jury management process in my office.

Doug Kidd and his handful of bitter friends have accused me of making these improvements to make Doug Kidd look bad. They refuse to accept the results of the 2010 election and move on.

I made a promise to the people of Saline County in 2010 that I would bring the technology of the office into this century. I am carrying out that promise.

Dave Elswick has called me the best circuit clerk in Arkansas based on the many improvements I’ve made. I appreciate that, but the best compliment I have received was when the voters of Saline County re-elected me this year.

Comments (1)

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I've been trying to make this point for close to a year: The AG's opinion is DEAD WRONG; in fact, it is UNCONSTITUTIONAL for ANY county employee (elected or appointed) to pocket foreclosure fees. Amendment 55, Section 5, third sentence (emphasis added): "Fees of the office SHALL NOT be the basis of compensation for officers or employees of county offices." Several sections of the County Government Code, recognized by the courts as the implementing legislation for Amendment 55, confirm this. This goes straight to one of the KEY purposes of Amendment 55--to END the pocketing of fees by county employees, a major source of widespread corruption in Arkansas counties in the 1950's & 1960's that led to Amendment 55.

State v. Swaim (at http://opinions.aoc.arkansas.gov/WebLink8/… ), the 1925 Supreme Court case the AG cited in claiming fee-pocketing was made OK by the 2003 repeal of the 1873 law that made circuit clerks "ex officio" commissioners, actually says the EXACT OPPOSITE. The Court NOT ONLY ordered Pat Swaim, then Lonoke County circuit clerk (and "ex officio" commissioner under old law), to give up his fees; it ALSO ordered his DEPUTY, Albert Sexton, to give up HIS fees even in cases where he was DIRECTLY appointed (and did NOT serve "ex officio"), saying his appointments were a subterfuge of the county salary law and were made BECAUSE he was deputy clerk.

Applying 2003 law to 1925 facts only makes Swaim's situation (and every other circuit clerk's) the same as his deputy Sexton; the work is STILL being done ON county time BY county employees appointed ("ex officio" or otherwise) BECAUSE they're county employees. Even Larry Crane's "office pizza fund" is illegal; under Amendment 55 and the County Government Code, those fees MUST go to the county treasury as long as ANY county employee is conducting the sale.

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Posted by RBBrittain on 09/10/2012 at 2:36 PM
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