Columns » Max Brantley

What is Leslie Rutledge hiding?

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Leslie Rutledge, the Republican nominee for attorney general, is stonewalling attempts to understand why superiors said should she not be rehired after abruptly resigning as a juvenile court lawyer for the Department of Human Services effective Dec. 3, 2007. A supervisor, in a note added to her file 10 days after she left, stated the reason was "gross misconduct."

An examination of Rutledge's personnel file is limited by state law. Records that constitute job evaluations are exempt from disclosure under the open records law unless an employee has been fired or suspended. Employees may voluntarily release such records, however Rutledge refuses to allow release of all her personnel records. She also did not return calls after a limited document release produced emails to and from her that demonstrated she'd mishandled aspects of at least three cases — two adoptions and an appearance in juvenile court. Failure to call a subpoenaed witness in juvenile court prompted a supervisor to ask Rutledge to meet with her Nov. 15, 2007. DHS records contain no further e-mails by Leslie Rutledge after that supervisor's final request for a meeting and Dec. 3, when her resignation took effect.

The Democrat-Gazette did get a response from Rutledge to calls from Democrats that she disclose all relevant information about her work history for the state.

"I have no confidence in those files and what is contained in those records," Rutledge said. "The real concern [should be] how and why a state agency would change an employee's personnel file 10 days after they resigned voluntarily."

Does she have no confidence in her own e-mails, which reflect problems — perhaps minor, we still don't know — in three cases? We do know that it is not unusual for employers to add notes to former employees files after departure, particularly when differences existed and repercussions were possible. Rutledge had been hired on an "emergency" basis while Mike Huckabee, a Republican was governor. Her father, Keith Rutledge, was a Huckabee supporter and his drug czar.

Here's what we also know:

Leslie Rutledge seeks to be the state's top lawyer, attorney general.

On account of purported "gross misconduct," Rutledge would not be eligible to be hired by a state agency the attorney general represents.

DHS files contain more information about Rutledge's mishandling of cases. Rutledge refuses to allow that information to be released.

Rutledge has had at least nine jobs since graduating from law school in 2001 and the work has left few notable marks. Apart from a few months in private practice in Jacksonville and her establishment of a personal law firm in Little Rock when she returned from Washington after the 2012 election, her jobs have been in partisan political or government/patronage positions. A family friend hired her as Court of Appeals law clerk; she worked for 14 months for a Republican prosecutor (on which she bases her campaign claim that she's an "experienced prosecutor); she worked 10 months for Gov. Mike Huckabee before an abrupt departure (she had no new job and didn't find one with the Lonoke prosecutor until a couple of months later), and she worked for the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee and the Republican National Committee. A search of the state and federal eastern district court databases turns up no cases in which Rutledge has participated as a lawyer since a divorce case in 2007.

Work history counts. To borrow from Rutledge, it's hard to have confidence in her based on the sketchiness of her resume. She should open the doors to a full inspection of her work for children in distress. She won't. Voters deserve better and should remember that in considering the deeper record of her Democratic opponent, Nate Steel.

Since the column was published, Rutledge has further demonstrated she's unfit for office. See here and here.

Max Brantley is on vacation. This column appeared first on the Arkansas Blog.

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