From a perspective of long legislative coverage, John Brummett beholds the Lu Hardin guilty plea yesterday and thinks back to a group of "young reformers" who once roamed the Senate. They included Hardin; Nick Wilson, who already has served a prison sentence (but whose fingerprints remain on social service agencies still pulling down significant sums in state money under a program he fathered); Bill Gwatney, shot to death in Democratic Party headquarters; Jon Fitch, who died last week; Morril Harriman, who decamped to the lobby and then back into government employ as right-hand man to one other senator of note, Mike Beebe.
Speaking of Lu Hardin: You might be interested in coverage of his plea from the Palm Beach Post and the local community shock. Hardin resigned Friday as president of Palm Beach Atlantic University in anticipation of his court appearance Monday. The article touches on what we we reported exclusively yesterday, that Hardin was under financial pressure from gambling debts amassed playing slots at Mississippi casinos.
Sheffield Nelson, a former GOP candidate for governor in Arkansas and a close friend of Hardin's, attributed the debt to a gambling problem that no one knew about until recently.
Nelson said he spoke with Hardin on Monday after the court appearance.
"He's very sad, and he feels like he hurt some people in the process," Nelson said. "I know he regrets deeply the choices he made."
A Florida university official told the Post that the school was aware of "financial issues" when Hardin was hired, but not that a federal Grand Jury investigation was in progress. But there was regret for events. Said West Palm Beach City Commmissioner Bill Moss:
"It's a shame because (Hardin's) done a lot of good for the community, and the university," Moss said. "I always found him to be a man of his word, and I just hope whoever they bring in continues with that same direction." Moss said.
Hardin seemed to be really settling into West Palm Beach life, Moss said. "He bought a condo downtown, he loved being a resident of downtown and he loved everything we had accomplished. He was one of our biggest fans," Moss said. "He and his wife both, I saw them out few months ago. They were looking to buy a dog and settling in."