JAKE FILES: Nursing home owner's money transfer to him to get scrutiny.
A special prosecutor will be appointed to investigate an $80,000 wire transfer made by a nursing home executive to then-Sen. Jake Files
of Fort Smith.
John Lovett of the Times Record reports
today on the request for a special prosecutor by Sebastian Prosecutor Dan Shue,
who said he wanted to leave no appearance of conflict in handling the case.
The newspaper discovered the transfer in court documents last year. It went from David Norsworthy,
a partner in ownership of nursing homes with Michael Morton,
to Files one week after Files proposed a constitutional amendment aimed at discouraging damage lawsuits, such as negligence claims against nursing homes. That amendment didn't make the ballot and a similar idea was knocked off the ballot in 2016. But the idea is back in a legislatively proposed amendment this year that is being backed financially by the nursing home industry, which wants to limit damage awards and attorney fees, along with stripping the Supreme Court of rule-making authority.
Files has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing
for, among others, taking state money directed to a Fort Smith project for his own use. His construction business cratered amid long-running financial problems in which he was helped at one point by a loan from a lobbyist. Neither he nor Norsworthy have
been willing to discuss the $80,000 transfer.
Shue had earlier written the U.S. attorney to ask him if the transfer was made in violation of any federal law. A state prosecutor now will pursue an investigation, according to an order signed this week.
“A duly qualified person shall be appointed as soon as practicable to serve as Special Prosecuting Attorney, being vested with the same constitutional and statutory powers as those of the elected Prosecuting Attorney in the Twelth Judicial District and shall have full investigative and prosecutorial authority in the investigation and prosecuting of any criminal conduct related to Jake Files, a former State Senator,” states the order of appointment signed by Shue and Sebastian County Circuit Judge Stephen Tabor on May 25.
This case is already being made an issue by those opposing Issue 1 to limit lawsuits, which is backed by nursing homes, doctors and chambers of commerce.