Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday summary

An attorney for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette filed a motion with the Arkansas Supreme Court to unseal court briefs submitted in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit over access to former Pulaski County Comptroller Ron Quillin’s e-mails. Pulaski County has refused access to 668 e-mails Quillin exchanged with Cheryl Zeier, a Missouri woman who works for a financial software company that the county has paid more than $1.1 million over the past four years.

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that would deny Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola voter-backed increases in power and pay. The lawsuit was dismissed “without prejudice” and may be refilled.

Two more heat-related deaths have been confirmed in Arkansas, bringing the total this summer to eight, state health officials report. A State Department of Health spokesman declined to release specific information about the most recent victims, citing federal privacy laws.

The state attorney general's office has filed a lawsuit against a Jonesboro company for allegedly offering fake driver's licenses to Hispanics in northeastern Arkansas. McDaniel's office filed suit in Craighead County Circuit Court against Benjamin Sanchez, Oscar Sanchez and Rita Soto, owners and operators of International Automovil Association Inc.

Weekend motorists can expect to see sobriety checkpoints along with a saturation of law enforcement. The holiday saturation period will begin Friday, Aug. 31, at 6 p.m., and continue through midnight on Tuesday, Sept. 3.

Gov. Mike Beebe and a panel of lawmakers have called for broad increases in pay for state employees, saying a raise is necessary to compete for workers likely to be lured to private sector jobs.

A 23-year veteran of the Department of Correction has been fired after investigators determined he took a rifle once assigned to Director Larry Norris and then lied about it when confronted. The employee wasn’t identified because he has state appeal rights, but spokesman Dina Tyler says that the 45-year-old had been a training instructor at several prisons. His duties included training staff to shoot firearms.

Former Justice of the Peace Johnny W. Brady says that he has dropped his appeal of a circuit ruling that reversed last November's District 10 justice of the peace election. The seat Brady once pursued and attained is now held by JP Jerry L. Roberts, who ran as a Republican. Before Roberts' lawsuit, Brady, a Democrat, was deemed the race's victor by a 738-736 total count.

Wireless, high-speed Internet access may be available to the people of Polk County in about two months. Access to high-speed Internet is an economic development must-have, according to Polk County Judge Ray Stanley.

A group of Humphrey citizens are hoping that an empty grassy lot on the north side of town will be the home of a new state-of-the-art school facility next fall. Organizers of the proposed “School of Excellence” open-enrollment charter school will submit their application to the state Board of Education for the second time on Friday.

Arkansas will receive $13.2 million over the next six years to raise the scores of students taking Advanced Placement exams and, ultimately, to produce more mathematicians and scientists for the state and nation.

Three Arkansas communities are planning new health clinics with the help of new federal funding announced this week. A group of 12 community health centers in Arkansas was awarded about $1.4 million in grants to start primary-care clinics in Mount Ida, Lake City and Bentonville.

Derwood Smith doesn’t think the fashion of baggy pants — the kind that hang low enough to expose the boxers, briefs or thongs underneath — is going out of style fast enough. So, to help speed the process, the 74-year-old Pine Bluff alderman is proposing the city fine anyone with the look $200, plus court costs.

Police in Indiana have arrested an Arkansas prisoner and a former Faulkner County jailer who authorities believe loaded her three small children into a vehicle and helped the inmate escape almost three weeks ago.

A Blytheville man who told relatives he was tired of caring for his partially paralyzed brother faces manslaughter and abuse charges after an autopsy found the brother died of starvation and neglect on a back porch. Police arrested Gerald Wayne Whitaker after receiving a report from the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory that called the death of Larry Whitaker a homicide.

A former Fayetteville police detective faces federal child pornography charges. Jeremy Boyd Grammer was indicted by a federal grand jury. He was arraigned in federal court in Fayetteville on three charges, including one count of distributing child pornography that was transported in interstate commerce by computer and two counts of receiving child pornography that was transported in interstate commerce by computer.

A Fort Smith couple who pleaded three weeks ago to more than 40 theft-related felonies in Sebastian County appeared in Crawford County Circuit Court and pleaded to more. Jeffery Paul Mattox and Stacy Lynn Mattox were each charged with three felony counts of residential burglary and three felony counts of theft of property. Judge Gary R. Cottrell sentenced the couple to 15 years in prison plus 15 years suspended. Federal authorities are investigating firearms charges against the couple.

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