A Little Rock attorney has filed an ethics complaint against Faulkner County Circuit Judge Mike Maggio on behalf of his clients who were plaintiffs in a case Maggio presided over last year.
The clients, Rosey Perkins and Rhonda Coppak, represented the estate of Martha Bull, who died at Greenbrier Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in what was ruled to be a case of negligence.
Maggio greatly reduced the jury’s $5.2 million award to the plaintiffs to $1 million, saving the case’s defendant $4.2 million.
The defendant in the case was a corporation owned by nursing home operator Michael Morton, of Fort Smith.
Morton has stated financial interest in about 50 corporations or nursing homes in the south.
An anonymous source provided the Log Cabin Democrat with information that, followed up on, revealed suspicious timing in the formation of several political action committees that would eventually fund Maggio’s since-dropped campaign for Court of Appeals.
The source of the six committees’ funding linked back to Morton and his entities, and the groups were formed with an initial and sole donation on July 8, the day Maggio heard the defense’s motion to reduce the defendant’s payout.
A seventh committee, with funds linked to Morton, also gave to Maggio, but has since given to other candidates.
Maggio ruled in favor of the defense July 11.
The state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission has since confirmed an investigation has been opened into Maggio’s campaign financing.
Plaintiffs Perkins and Coppak said previously they filed a complaint with the agency after timing of the formation of the PACs paired with the funding source and eventual contribution to Maggio’s campaign came to light.
Maggio’s financial reports filed with the Secretary of State also show he has received an excess of campaign contributions from two of the PACS funded by Morton.
Maggio isn’t the only judicial candidate whose campaign has been funded with money from nursing homes, and the industry has made large contributions to local judicial candidates and to state-level campaigns.
A subsequent look at other candidates revealed nursing home money going to Doralee Chandler, seeking Circuit Court judgeship in this district; deputy prosecutor Troy Braswell, seeking Maggio’s current seat; Circuit Judge David Clark; Court of Appeals Judge Robin Wynne; Associate Justice Karen Baker of the Supreme Court; and Rhonda Wood, who runs unopposed for the Supreme Court.
The local major contributors from the nursing home industry are Morton; Victoria Healthcare Inc., headed by Joshua and Ken Kilgore; and Reliance Healthcare Management, headed by locals Brandon and Bryan Adams.
In the March 18 complaint obtained Friday from Perkins and Coppak’s attorney, Thomas Buchanan, the counselor states his clients would like Arkansas Ethics Commission to investigate Morton, his businesses, the committees’ officer and Little Rock lawyer Chris Stewart, and “any other individual or group that may be involved with any improper solicitation and/or contribution of judicial campaign funds.
Another officer listed on the PACs in question is Linda Leigh Flanagin, whose listed employment is with LRM Consulting.
The consulting firm’s incorporator was Gilbert Baker, former senator of Conway, but the firm now has listed James McAlister as the incorporator in the Secretary of State filing.
The registered agent is Chris Stewart.
Also listed as officers on the PACS are Don Thomas, listed as retired; Ancil Lea, self-employed; Sarah Drye, employed at Stewart’s law firm; and Cheryl Loetscher, employed by “The Thomas Group.”
Maggio is also under investigation by the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission for postings he made on an LSU fan forum website that alluded to celebrity actress Charlize Theron’s sealed adoption proceedings in Faulkner County and questionable comments about sex, sexual orientation and race.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236, or on Twitter @Courtneyism. 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)