If you missed it, the print edition of the Times this week had an interesting report by Gerard Matthews on the controversial substance abuse prevent grant that went to Sen. Henry Wilkins' Pine Bluff Church even though two applicants had been graded higher in the initial application process.
We reported that Wilkins' son had been hired to run the program. We tried repeatedly to get comments from the senator, but were unsuccessful. He reached us today, after the story appeared.
He took exception to the article's characterization that he had hired his son.The senator said he had nothing to do with the grant, except that, in his duties as pastor, he is made aware when the church applies for such things. He maintains his son was hired by a committee of six church officers and that his son, Hank Wilkins V, will answer to that committee. “I was aware that the committee had taken the information [about the position], per the necessary requirements, to the local newspaper,” Senator Wilkins said. “They advertised the position, they set meetings and held interviews. They informed me when they were going to do interviews and I sat in on some of the interviews. I said to the committee at that time that since I was pastor of the church, and since my son was one of the people who applied, I was going to recuse myself from the committee’s discussions and decisions… Since my son was one of the applicants, I wanted to avoid any appearance of my attempting to sway the committee’s decision in any direction.” The senator said his son was qualified for the position, through his education at Harvard and many volunteer experiences. He also added that his son was at one time, but is not currently, enrolled in a public health program at UALR. He has previously said, in response to another legislator's criticism, that he saw no conflict in his church obtaining the grant.