The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Jeannie Roberts explored every cranny
of the murky legal situation pertaining to the recent marriage of a member of a state governing body to a high official of the agency she governs.
Nobody in officialdom has a definitive answer on what the law says about Corrections Board member Mary Parker's
October marriage to Dale Reed,
the No. 2 man in the state Correction Department.
Lou Holtz has an answer. Do right.
Mary Parker should resign.
It is not a commentary on her long service to corrections. It is not a commentary on Reed's long service. It is not a commentary on Corrections Director Wendy Kelley's appointment of Reed to the No. 2 position.
The relationship simply presents the obvious appearance of a conflict of interest, no matter how often Parker does or does not abstain from votes on specific Corrections matters.
Parker, who's served on the board since 1993, was reappointed by Gov. Mike Beebe
in 2010 to serve through the end of 2016.
Time for early retirement. Thanks to Parker for her service. Running one of the biggest state agency's should not be seen by those on the outside to be a family affair. Particularly not given the historic clubishness that long dominated Arkansas prison operations.
PS IN RESPONSE TO READER COMMENT: Note that Parker serves in an unpaid, appointed position. Reed is a full-time employee of the Correction Department.
UPDATE: Mara Leveritt, who's devoted a significant amount of her career in journalism writing about the prisons and inmates, contributes this interesting tidbit relative to Mary Parker and conflicts of interest:
Schools around the country have been having students in criminal justice classes study the West Memphis case for years. For instance, last week I spoke at a school in Indiana that had spent a semester on it. I tried for years to get Dr. Parker to explain why she was not assigning students in her criminal justice course at UALR to study it. In fact, two students told me that they proposed writing papers about it for her class and she discouraged it. When I questioned faculty at other universities about this practice, they said that their policies were to encourage faculty members to engage in civic affairs, participate on boards, etc. However, they were not to do that if the position put their students at any disadvantage or denied them and educational opportunity. When I contacted Dr. Parker to ask about her criminal justice program's apparent lack of interest in the most high-profile criminal case in Arkansas, she told me it would be a conflict of interest for her to respond because she did not comment on cases involving the Department of Correction.