INFLUENTIAL: Rep. Justin Harris, vice chair of the committee that handles Children and Youth legislation, often of interest to the Department of Human Services.
Our reporting on Rep. Justin Harris
has made reference to the influence he has amassed as a legislator over the Department of Human Services
and he used it to advance personal interests, including adoptions now the center of controversy.
Today, Spencer Willems of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette examined
closely DHS e-mail records between Harris and Cecile Blucker,
head of the Division of Children and Family Services, that point in very specific ways to Harris' wielding of that influence and of DHS' catering to his interests. Important context is Harris' recent defense of his actions in turning over his two young adopted children into the home of a sex abuser by painting DHS officials as resistant and threatening to him.
The article details Harris' effort on the floor of the legislature to block DHS bills when he was unhappy about responses to his efforts to meet with DHS officials about a hoped-for adoption.
The growing picture of Harris' intervention in DHS matters — he remains vice chair of a committee that handles children's issues — is of a powerful legislator who repeatedly used his influence to win special treatment from an immense state agency that hurried an adoption that went wrong.
Has DHS sufficiently reviewed the aftermath of that adoption? Does it meaningfully evaluate the spending practices and adherence to religion neutrality at Harris's state-financed pre-school, Growing God's Kingdom? Given the appearances of partiality as a result of Harris' influence-wielding, it is only fair to ask the questions. We will.
The Arkansas Times
has the same file of DHS correspondence on which today's excellent Democrat-Gazette reporting was based and hope to provide it fully on-line.