Attorney General Dustin McDaniel talked to the Conway Rotary Club about an eventful last year of his term, both for his office and for Faulkner County.
The Pegasus oil spill in Mayflower is, and will continue to be, an ongoing case, he said. His office has filed in federal court to fine Exxon for violations of both state and federal clean air and clean water acts, and last week the court denied a motion to dismiss by Exxon’s lawyers.
Probably after his term is up, whichever candidate proceeds him will be dealing with natural resource damages to the town and its businesses, soil and lake. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality will be parties as far as these damages go, and the AG’s office will represent ADEQ in seeking them.
His hometown of Jonesboro has had its "fair share" or tornadoes, he said, but the one that went from Mayflower to Vilonia on April 27 was the worst he’s ever seen.
On a night that anyone without what one Faulkner County deputy described to the newspaper as "heavy ID" was getting past the layers of roadblocks and checkpoints, McDaniel, who is the state’s chief law enforcement officer, was in a damage area "trying to help find survivors and victims" around midnight the night of the storm. Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Bigelow) was at the Rotary meeting, and he too was near Vilonia that night trying to help the people of his county however he could.
McDaniel said he was struck by the way "people pulled together to help their neighbors" in the disasters.
Back to business, McDaniel said he will be leaving his successor with a "cyber crimes" investigative and prosecutorial division that he said sets "the standard" nationwide in protecting children, who he said are "more connected than every before, and more at risk than ever before" due to the several forms of online exploitation of children.
So far, this division has sentenced online offenders to about 1,400 years of jail time, he said.
His successor will also take up his consumer protection website, gotyourbackarkansas.org, which describes itself as "someone to have your back" whether "you have been scammed by a shady business or ... are just confused by charges on a bill."
These services are funded by money seized from online criminals or "shady" businesses, McDaniel said.
McDaniel also expressed confidence in UCA President Tom Courtway, and said that Courtway’s "poaching" of Warren Readnour as UCA General Counsel, formerly his office’s Senior Assistant AG for the civil department, was one of his smartest decisions.
Asked by someone what he thought the worst problem the state faces, McDaniel said that jail overcrowding and an unsustainable number of state criminals being housed at county jails was a problem that only more funding that seems to be available with the current budget can solve.
McDaniel also said that he’s met with AG candidates Leslie Rutledge and Rep. Nate Steel (D-Nashville), and though he's endorsed Steel, said he had confidence in either.
(Staff writer Joe Lamb, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1277. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)