Final p.m. update:
Campaign contributions recently reported by embattled Faulkner County Circuit Judge Mike Maggio can be linked to a nursing home negligence defendant the judge dropped from a case last year.
Michael Morton, who is president or stockholder in networks of dozens of nursing and rehabilitation centers in the south, was originally a defendant in the case of the estate of Martha Bull.
Bull died in Greenbrier Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, which Morton owns, along with several other local centers, in what was considered to be a case of negligence that was linked to her death.
Maggio ruled over proceedings last year and greatly reduced the family's award from the jury from $5.2 million to $1 million, siding with the defense's motion to reduce the "excessive" figure on grounds the award was "so great that it shocks the conscience of the court."
Maggio’s ruling in favor of the remaining defendant in the Bull case, Central Arkansas Nursing Centers, the umbrella corporation over Greenbrier Nursing and Rehabilitation that is also owned by Morton, came on July 11, 2013.
Just three days before Maggio reduced the nursing home’s payout, six political action committees were formed with an initial sole contribution of $3,000 each that would eventually fund Maggio’s campaign for Court of Appeals.
Behind the contributions are entities that can all be traced back to Morton using a financial interest disclosure statement Morton had to file after receiving a governor’s appointment to the Health Services Permit Commission, and other Secretary of State business reporting forms.
Maggio reported in January and February of this year about $10,000 in contributions from Morton’s political action committees.
The reports (attached below) are included in Maggio's campaign finance documents filed with the Arkansas Secretary of State, along with expenditures and other documents pertaining to his campaign for Court of Appeals.
The committees linked to Morton and listed as contributors to Maggio’s campaign are: Go Good Government PAC, Conservative Persons In PAC, Citizens for Information Technology PAC, Taxpayers for Change PAC, Thomas Group In PAC and Judicial Reform PAC.
All six of the political action committees were formed on July 8, three days before Maggio’s ruling reduced Morton’s payout, with the sole contribution of $3,000 given by entities linked to Morton.
Go Good Government PAC's monetary contribution comes from Sherwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Inc., owned by Morton.
Conservative Persons In PAC's monetary contribution comes from Michael Morton.
Citizens for Information Technology PAC's monetary contribution comes from Briarwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, owned by Morton.
Thomas Group In PAC's monetary contribution comes from MSM Properties, Inc., owned by Morton.
Judicial Reform PAC's monetary contribution comes from Quapaw Care and Rehabilitation Center, owned by Morton.
Taxpayers for Change PAC's monetary contribution comes from Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at Good Shepherd, LLC, owned by Morton.
Money given to Maggio’s campaign from Go Good Government PAC reported in December is listed as $2,000, which Arkansas Code section 7-6-203 states is the maximum contribution that may be given by an individual or entity in one election cycle.
The PAC is listed again on Maggio’s reporting documents filed in January as contributing another $250, which would be considered in excess of the law.
Thomas Group In PAC is also listed as contributing another $250 in January after it was recorded in December that the group had given Maggio $2,000.
Arkansas Ethics Commission Director Graham Sloan explained, speaking in general terms, that an additional contribution reported after an entity reaches the $2,000 limit would be considered in excess of the campaign financing law.
The Ethics Commission found Maggio in violation of the same law in 2010, when a final action order fined the judge $500 and issued a warning when he took campaign funds as personal income and did not provide records for how the money was spent on his election for Circuit Court.
The counselor for the family represented in the estate of Martha Bull, Thomas Buchanan, said Wednesday he has talked with his clients and has been authorized to look into possible new legal action.
“We’re very concerned and we’re going to explore all avenues to make sure justice is truly done,” Buchanan said of the Bull case. “What’s troubling to me in general is that a lot of the public has lost confidence in our legislators due to corporate contributions and money coming from the rich and powerful.”
Buchanan said he believes the judiciary branch of the government is to act “impartially and fairly, without influence or the appearance of impropriety,” and said the recent reports are “concerning to me, to my clients, and it should be concerning to every individual.”
David Sachar, executive director of the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, the group investigating Maggio on a previous complaint, said he could not comment on if a complaint had been filed regarding Maggio’s recent reports of contributions linked to Morton.
Maggio, currently the Second Division circuit judge of the 20th Judicial District, formally left the race for Court of Appeals last week amid controversy over comments he made on an LSU fan forum website that revealed questionable stances on sex, race, and sexual orientation, and that alluded to celebrity actress Charlize Theron's sealed adoption proceedings in the court system where Maggio sits.
The story of the LSU fan forum postings was brought to light by www.bluehogreport.com.
Maggio did not return a telephone message seeking comment Tuesday evening.
Michael Morton did not return a telephone message seeking comment Wednesday. Related documents: GO Good Government PAC Quarterly Report, Citizens for Judicial Reform PAC Quarterly Report, Thomas Group In PAC Quarterly Report, Citizens for Information Technology PAC Quarterly Report, Taxpayers for Change PAC Quarterly Report, Conservative Persons In PAC Quarterly Report, Michael Morton's Statement of Financial Interest, Maggio's Campaign Contribution Report for January, Maggio's Campaign Contribution Report for February