Update: Mob trial, city board, child porn | Arkansas Blog

Update: Mob trial, city board, child porn

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Some additional news items:

* Stephen Steed of the Arkansas Leader tells me things are going slowly in the federal trial of North Little Rock Alderman Sam Baggett and Cabot businessman and reputed mobster George Thompson. Jury selection is underway. A number were disqualified because of connections to a variety of people Baggett defense attorney John Wesley Hall said he intended to call as witnesses, including current Mayor Pat Hays and former city officials.

* The U.S. attorney's office in Little Rock announced the indictment of Fredrick Rains, 62, for receipt and possession of child pornography. An investigation began after someone complained to authorities that Rains had taken an indecent photo of a 16-year-old girl in a restaurant. Rains diisputed this, but said he might have focused on the girl's rear end with his cell phone camera. But a further investigation led to the alleged discovery of 7,000 pornographic images on his computer.

* Mayor Mark Stodola, hoping to quickly ram through the city budget, drew an objection from outgoing City Director Michael Keck (he'll be missed) who wanted to talk first about an increase of funding for Central Arkansas Transit. It became an opportunity for complaints about poor route planning, empty buses and the empty River Rail trolley, which City Director Brad Cazort said was clearly a tourist attraction and not a commuter route, as it was originally sold. Keck also had concerns about the parks budget, down this year because of reduced activities, including because of the continued closure of the unrebuilt burned leisure center on 12th Street. The executive session on City Attorney Tom Carpenter has not yet been held.

* City Director Kenneth Richardson said he wanted City Manager Bruce Moore to assure him the $200,000 given to the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce would not be used for lobbying and that detailed reports would be received. Moore said that was correct. That is so untrue as to be perilously close to a lie. The Chamber of Commerce won't say who the city tax money pays. Thus, there is no way to know if we are subsidizing lobbyists or not. And, for the umpteenth time, the Chamber's report on the tax money expenditures is a general balance sheet on salaries, travel, publications and similar line items. It does NOT explain in any specific detail how the money is spent — or prove that it was spent in the manner described To date, Mayor Stodola and City Manager Moore have refused to demand more specific details from the chamber. There is NO accountability on this spending, beyond the assurances of Stodola's French dining partner Jay Chesshir, chamber president. Chesshir takes no questions from the press on this. He believes he is above the law and public responsibility for his handout.

UPDATE: City Director Keck couldn't get a second on his motion to convene in private to discuss City Attorney Carpenter's work. Interesting. Noted: Keck will be gone shortly. Stodola won't. Keck said shortly before the meeting adjourned that he had no intention of seeking Carpenter's resignation or removal, but wanted to talk about his frustration on changes of opinion in interpretation of city campaign finance law that once was interpreted as prohibiting carryover of surpluses, but now has been interpreted by Carpenter to do otherwise. (To Stdola's benefit.)

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