Trip to the Capitol roof appropriate?
After an evening on the town that included dinner at Doe's Eat Place and a few games of pool at the White House Tavern Republican State Representative and candidate for State Treasurer Duncan Baird, Republican House Speaker Davy Carter, Republican Representative John Burris, and Republican Representative Micah Neal accompanied by Katherine Vasolis and her female friend arrived soon after midnight at the State Capitol Building on October 18, 2013
Republican House Speaker Davy Carter said the group was just hanging out and planned to go on the Capitol Roof and smoke a cigar and said "nothing inappropriate happened, as is reflected by the video." Carter added "There is nothing bad, no big deal, the whole thing has been turned and twisted to blackmail Duncan out of the race. I am floored by the whole situation."
Republican Representative Burris said "I think we all wanted to go up there (Capitol building roof) it's a beautiful building and place."
Security cameras set up inside the state capitol captured the activities of the group and Capitol Police emails about the event give some insight into what occurred the morning of October 18th.
The group of six approached Sgt. Eric Thornton of the Capitol Police about going to the Capitol roof. Thornton felt some in the group had possible issues of steadiness, advised the group that the elevator to gain access to the Capitol roof had malfunctioned earlier in the week leaving two individuals stranded for several hours, he did not have a key to access the roof and they could not go to the roof.
Some members of the group attempted to ride the freight elevator and walked around inside the Capitol Building before leaving about 3:00 am.
On November 4, 2013 Former Arkansas Republican Party Chairman and Saline County Circuit Clerk Dennis Milligan an announced candidate for the Republican nominee for Arkansas State Treasurer requested and obtained copies of the Capitol Police records and video of the midnight visit of the group of 6 to the State Capitol on October 18, 2013
On November 7, 2013 Milligan calls Baird saying he had some "damaging information" on Baird and they needed to meet face to face and determine what's going to happen. Milligan and Baird met at Krispi Cream in west Little Rock that afternoon. Unknown to Milligan Baird recorded their November 7 meeting and telephone calls.
Baird contends at the November 7, 2013 meeting Milligan showed him the Capitol Police emails, a number of pictures and described a video of Baird and three Republican colleagues and two unidentified women made at the state Capitol on October 18. Milligan said to Baird " Here's the bottom line, you're finding a new career. You're not going to run for State Treasurer. OK? Unless you want to see this on the 7 o'clock news. If you call me within a couple of hours, we'll find you something else to do."
Baird said Milligan threatened to make contact with Davy Carter's employers Johnny Allison and Randy Sims at Regions Bank, who Milligan said were holding fundraisers for him. Milligan told Baird his conduct would also adversely affect Republican Tom Cotton's race for the U.S. Senate.
Milligan contends the November 7 meeting was to warn Baird what his enemies might do with the video and said his "intentions were honorable to meet with Duncan to let him be aware of the families of the people of everybody that was going to be hurt."
Whether the midnight tour of the State Capitol by this group of Christian Caring Conservative Republican leaders was "inappropriate" to "smoke a cigar" to view "beautiful" downtown Little Rock should be determined by the families involved. Whether Milligan's intentions were "honorable" or an attempt to "blackmail" Baird out of the State Treasurer's race is a matter for the candidates and the Republican Party to resolve.
Whether Milligan, Baird and other Republican leaders spend time at the Capitol working on a health insurance plan, or working on other legislation providing for the common good of all Arkansas citizens or whether they spend their time working on matters for their personal gain or which benefit only the richest 1% should be the concern of all Arkansas citizens.
(Paul Rawlings of Heber Springs contributes each week to the editorial pages of The Sun-Times)