In general, it can be hard to make heads or tails of some parts of the Arkansas Code. For every well-written statute, there are just as many (if not more) that read like they were written by a drunken orangutan after a three-day bender.[foot]Or, more accurately, like they were written by one of the Meeks brothers.[/foot]
Luckily for us, however, one of the places were the Code is clear is in the context of certain election-law misdemeanors. Specifically, Ark. Code Ann. 7-1-103(a)(2)(A)(i), which states:
It shall be unlawful for any public servant, as defined in § 21-8-402, to devote any time or labor during usual office hours toward the campaign of any other candidate for office or for the nomination to any office.
Clear enough, right?
Oh, look at that.
Left to right, that’s Channing Pejic, Sandy Martinez, LeFlore Barbour, Lydia Dillon, and Katy Fraley.
More accurately, that’s five employees of the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, all sitting at a registration/sign-in table at preacher-cum-politician Mike Huckabee’s campaign announcement in Hope, AR, earlier today.
It appears that Rutledge’s Communications Director, Judd Deere, is also in attendance:
while there are no pictures floating around of her just yet, it is a safe bet that Leslie Rutledge herself is also in attendance, given that Huckabee made campaign appearances for her last fall.
UPDATE: Here we go:
Section 21-8-402(18) defines “public servant” as “all public officials, public employees, and public appointees,” while 402(16)(A) defines “public employee” as “an individual who is employed by a governmental body or who is appointed to serve a governmental body,” and 402(17) defines “public official” as “a legislator or any other person holding an elective office of any governmental body.”
All of which is to say, the prohibition against devoting “any time or labor during usual office hours toward the campaign of any other candidate…for the nomination to any office” applies to everyone, from the Attorney General down through her employees.
The statute further specifies that the violation of these provisions shall be a Class A misdemeanor, that any person convicted under the provisions of this statute shall be ineligible to hold any office or employment in any of the departments in this state, and:
(B)(i) If any person is convicted under the provisions of this section while employed by any of the departments of this state, he or she shall be removed from employment immediately.
(ii) If any person is convicted under the provisions of this section while holding public office, the conviction shall be deemed a misfeasance and malfeasance in office and shall subject the person to impeachment.
Given her previous interpretations of election laws, my guess is that Rutledge will claim that these employees were off the clock. Except that is irrelevant. If you are a public servant, which we have already established that all of these people are, you are prohibited from devoting “any time or labor” toward a candidate’s campaign or for the nomination of a candidate “during usual office hours.” This does not require that you be on the clock before the statute is triggered; rather, the prohibition is much broader and impliedly prohibits taking the day off and devoting that time to a campaign.
Which makes sense, really. State business — i.e., the job a public servant was elected/hired to perform — should not take a backseat to the public servant’s desire to head on down to Hope and rub elbows with Huckabee and his crew. Thus, per the statute, if a public servant wants to work for the election or nomination of a candidate, that needs to happen outside of “usual office hours” and separate from his or her position as a public servant.
What are the “usual office hours” of the AG’s Office? Well, according to their handbook:
The normal work schedule for employees of this office is 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Exceptions to this general rule may be granted by the Chief Deputy. Additional hours may be required of professional staff.
Theoretically, I suppose, the Chief Deputy could have told the employees who traveled to Hope today, “OK, for this one day, your normal office hours are from whenever you get back until nine hours after that time,” but that is going to make for a pretty long day for these folks. So I’m doubting that’s the situation.
Meaning, again, the only argument that they aren’t violating the statute is that they were not on the clock. So I’ve submitted a FOIA request for the aforementioned employees’ requests for leave.[foot]Of course, on the clock or not, it is pretty difficult to say that you are doing the hobnobbing on your own time, separate from your employment, when it is happening on a Tuesday morning and you are wearing a “Leslie Rutledge – Attorney General” button on your lapel, but we’ll come back to that if needed.[/foot] Assuming they did request time off, however, that puts them in something of a Catch-22: a quick scan of the parking spaces where AG vehicles are normally housed revealed that at least three of the general-use AG vehicles were gone today. So I’ve requested the records related to those vehicles as well.
Certainly, if Rutledge is going to hang her hat on someone having taken the day off to go be political on their own time, she would not be so absurd as to simultaneously allow those non-working employees to use AG vehicles to the event, would she?