by Max Brantley
The Democrat-Gazette today said it has sued Pulaski County for its refusal to turn over the e-mail files of Ron Quillin, who's been arrested for embezzling money from the county while he was comptroller. We'd sought those records earlier, too, and with equal lack of success.
I'm happy to say the state, which had hired Quillin as chief financial officer of the Medicaid program, isn't being so dismissive of the public's right to know. It has turned over a batch of e-mails Quillin generated during his brief time as a state employee. We hope to have more on that shortly. We'd told you earlier that Quillin is believed to have spent some of the money he diverted from the county on a female acquaintance who was a supplier of computer services to the county. The e-mails may shed some light on that.
UPDATE: There are hundreds of e-mails. Some routine business. Some routine family discussions. Some of a personal -- and steamy -- nature with the female supplier of computer services to the county, who is NOT a vendor to the state Medicaid program. No reference found yet to expenditures of taxpayer money, except Quillin's plans to meet the software supplier on an out-of-town trip.
UPDATE II: This is intriguing, in light of today's developments. Among the e-mails are a couple from Quillin's wife, sending along information about job openings for attorneys in state government in the $100,000-a-year range. One note says in the subject line: "Here is one for Karla....even though I don't think she deserves it!"
Coincidentally, perhaps, Karla Burnett is the county attorney who refused the Democrat-Gazette's request to see Quillin's county e-mails. She is named in the D-G's suit.
UPDATE III: Karla Burnett has now told David Koon that the Times will receive a disk of Quillin e-mails at the county, but only those she deems relevant to performance or non-performance of his public duties. These will include some official communication with his software friend. But when there's a question about whether a personal relationship might have affected public performance, a valid claim can be made to a much broader slice of the employee's work product. He'll ask her about what she might know about Quillin's job search in behalf of an attorney named Karla.
Where does the county get off putting itself above the law? I suspect it has something to do with County Judge Buddy Villines and others having much to be embarrassed about. The county has been famously operating in the red for years and the trusted comptroller turns out to have sticky fingers? Just weeks before a report on how the county can raise more money to operate the jail? Baaaad timing.
All told, given the burgeoning questions, this looks like a matter that won't be settled by the simple embezzlement case against Quillin. A deeper inspection seems warranted. Grand jury time, Mr. Prosecutor?