ETHICS COMMISSION DETERMINES THAT JERRY JONES MADE AN ILLEGAL GIFT TO NORTH LITTLE ROCK POLICE OFFICERS
|JERRY JONES AS HE LEAVES ARK. ETHICS COMMISSION HEARING|
By Ean Lee Bordeaux and Russ Racop
Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys football franchise, was found to have violated Arkansas Code Annotated §21-8-801(b)(1), which prohibits gifts which intended to reward a public servant for performing the duties and responsibilities of their position.
The closed-door hearing began with Ethics Commission attorney Drew Blankenship introducing the case to Commission members. Blankenship stated that he did not need to introduce Jerry Jones, but went on for several minutes , ad nauseam, expounding on Jones accomplishments and describing Jones as a personal idol of his.
|DREW BLANKENSHIP - ETHICS COMMISSION STAFF ATTORNEY|
Blankenship then detailed the complaint against Jones and introduced eight exhibits.
(1) Probable Cause Report - a document that details the procedural history of the complaint against Jones and findings by Commission investigators. Included in this exhibit was the complaint.
(2) Written Offer of Settlement letter sent to Jones on April 25, 2017. The letter advised Jones that the Commission had found probable cause at a hearing held on April 21, 2017 that Jones had violated Arkansas Code Annotated §21-8-801(b) and they offered to settle the complaint by having Jones sign the offer in which he would agree with the Commission's finding that he violated the law in connection with his gift to NLR police officers. No sanction was to be imposed and Jones would only receive a warning letter (don't do something like this again).
(3) Hearing Notice sent to Jones for final adjudication.
(4) Joint Stipulation of Facts - a document signed by Jason Cohen, an attorney for Jones and Blankenship (which was dated 5/19/17) which stated that:
(a) Jones provided the tickets, travel and accommodations to show his appreciation to NLRPD officers.
(b) The value of the ticket, travel and accommodations given to Det. Gibbons and the other NLR Police Officers (not to the city) exceded $100.00.
(c) There was no evidence that anything was exchanged for the gift nor was anything expected.
(d) Before Det. Gibbons and NLR police officers accepted the offer and before Jones gave it, the offer was vetted by the city attorney and a resolution drafted and city passed the resolution (COMPLETE BULLSHIT).
(5) Video of NLR City Council meeting where resolution about gift was passed
(6) Copy of the resolution passed by the NLR City Council.
(8) Offer of Settlement Letter sent to Detective Gibbons (The offer was accepted and Gibbons admitted that he violated Arkansas Code Annotated §21-8-801(a)(1)by accepting tickets to Dallas Cowboy games - he went to five games - which included paid hotel accommodations and travel).
When Blankenship was introducing Commission Exhibit 2, he stated that the resolution passed by the NLR City Council "was an attempt at a workaround" of the law that prohibits a gift intended to reward a public servant for performing the duties of their position.
Jones attorney, Catherine Dolan objected to Blankenship's use of the term workaround. Dolan said the characterization of a workaround wasn't accurate. Dolan said she had worked very closely with the city attorney's office and it was not an attempt to get around the ethics laws it was to just to make sure everything was in compliance, it was very transparent, we were working within the law, everyone knew here we were and what we were trying to accomplish.
Blankenship said he did not mean to use the term as something negative, that it (the resolution) was something that was put into place to meet the requirement of A.C.A. 21-8-801 (Even though that is exactly what the Commission found the NLR Council did. On April 21st The Commission found that the NLR City Council had made an erroneous conclusion that the resolution they passed would put Jones gift to officers outside the scope of Ark.Code Ann. §21-8-801, which prohibits a gift intended to reward a public servant for performing the duties of their position).
Next came Jones. He presented an emotional appeal to Ethics Commission members, touting his humble childhood in Rose City and his accomplishments as owner of the Dallas Cowboys franchise. He was particularly proud of all the good works he is able to do with his position and wealth.
Holding back tears, with trembling hands and a nervous bouncing leg, Jones stated that the Ethics Commission had a difficult decision to make and thanks then for their service. Jones said that one evening he was watching CNN and saw a story about NLRPD officer Tommy Norman.
A transcript of the show was introduced as an exhibit and the video was played. (The video below is the same one shown and introduced as an exhibit by Jones in the hearing)
Jones said the video inspired him and he decided he needed to do something because of all the things going on nationally and all the pressure on police officers, "like Black Lives Matter and all of those kinds of things" to show his appreciation for the good works the officers do in their spare time, as private citizens not as police officers. Jones stated that the NLR officers did not get paid to create relationships on the community. Jones said his recognition did not reward them for being a policeman, that his recognition "rewarded them for their other social things, for what they are doing in their community." Jones added "I didn't give a gift for their day job... I gave the gift for the extra things".
Jones asked the Commission members to "use their discretion and not anyway send a message that this is technically or otherwise a violation".
Catherine Dolan stated that she had taken part in discussions with the mayor and city attorney to make sure that they were doing everything they could avoid a situation like the one they were in now. So they came up with the resolution to say the gift was deemed received by the city and passed on to officers that way we knocked it out of 28-8-801(a)(1) violation.
Dolan practically admitted to a conspiracy in her remarks.
It is simply incredible that all the individuals involved in this mess never thought it might be a good idea to place a call to the director of the Ethics Commission, Graham Sloan, and run the idea by him.
Both Jones and Dolan expressed concerns about negative publicity from a finding of a violation.
Dolan dropped a not so subtle hint to the appointed members that Governor Hutchinson had just presented Jones with Arkansas's Distinguished Citizen Award, that had only been given to a few number of individuals.
Jones emotional testimony was riddled with factual problems.
(1) CNN ran that story back in 2015, a good year before NLR Detective Gibbons was introduced to Jones by Catherine Dolan, a staff attorney for the Cowboys organization and a former Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for Pulaski County and where she became acquainted with Gibbons. Dolan is the individual that introduced Gibbons to Jones at a Cowboys game in 2016 (a year after the CNN story about Officer Norman was broadcast) and the same individual that was deeply involved in making arrangements with Gibbons for him and other NLRPD officers to attend the five games.
(2) The video shows Officer Norman carrying out functions and duties as a police officer for the city of North Little Rock.
(3) The athletic association that Jones made reference to is the NLRPD PAL (Police Athletic League).
Dolan's claims about the ordinance being passed prior to the gift being conferred and arrangements made was incredulous.
Russ Racop, the complainant and publisher of this blog, opened his remarks by stating that with all deference to Mr. Jones, the Commission did not have a difficult decision to make. In fact, the outcome was clear, Jones had violated Ark. Code Ann. §21-8-801 by conferring his gift to NLRPD officers.
Racop stated that when the Commission found that Det. Gibbons had violated the statute by accepting the gift, it also had to find that Jones violated it by making the gift. The two were locked together in reciprocity.
Racop countered the statements made by Jones and Dolan by referring the Commission to evidence that he had submitted in his complaint that clearly showed that by the time the NLR City Council passed the resolution, all arrangement had been made. Racop referenced several emails as proof:
|GIBBONS: "I HAVE BOOKED TRAVEL"; "WE ARE STAYING AT THE DFW MARRIOTT HOTEL"|
Racop told the Commission that one purpose of the statute was to prevent a quid pro quo situation, or something being done in return for the gift.
Racop pointed out another exhibit that was part of his complaint. It was a newspaper article in which Det. Gibbons was quoted as saying NLRPD Officers were wanting to know how to "pay Jones back".
Racop said that the fact that officers felt that they needed to pay Jones back was the entire reason that gifts like the once Jones gave were prohibited.
He next pointed out that one of the social activities of the officer that Jones mentioned was the NLRPD PAL program. He pointed out an exhibit A in the probable cause report.
Racop stated that PAL (Police Athletic League) was a program of the North Little Rock Police Department. He said that Jones wanted them to separate the police officers from their position as a city employee and the activities that they are involved in like PAL when they might not be on duty. He said that could not be done, as they were involved with the PAL program because they were police officers.
Racop pointed out that Officer Norman was on duty in the video that Jones introduced as evidence. All the thousands of posts Officer Norman makes on social media are made when he is on duty. He is out in the community as a community oriented police officer. That is what he is paid to do.
Racop said that police departments all over the country use posts on social media that have officers out in the community to counter the negative publicity that often portrays them in a bad light, that they are not terrible guys with a gun and badge.
Racop also pointed out the the friend mentioned in the article was none other that Catherine Dolan, Jones attorney, and pointed out the portion of Det. Gibbons sworn statement to Ethic Commission investigators that revealed that fact.
Racop remarked that Dolan had been a deputy prosecuting attorney "right here in Little Rock" before going to work for Jones. Dolan had attended law school in Arkansas and surely she was aware of Arkansas Code Annotated §21-8-801.
Racop also stated that he had made a FOI request to the North Little Rock Mayor and other city officials to obtain copies of any documents which showed that Jones had conferred the gift to the city of North Little Rock. Racop told the Commission that the response he received came back with statements that no such records exist.
Racop closed by saying "the Commission had an obligation to uphold the law and that the statute could not be mitigated by the good works of Mr. Jones and others. The message that they had to send was the same one that they did to Det. Gibbons, this is a violation of the law and something you cannot do. It is important that when you have someone with notoriety of Mr. Jones, that they are no different that the officer on the street that was found to have committed a violation. The Commission has a duty to do and that is to find that there was a violation of the act."
The Commission then went into a closed session to render a decision.
After a lengthy period, the Commission went back to an open session.
Commissioner Sybil Hampton, former director of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, made the motion for a finding of an unintentional violation. Joining Hampton in the vote were commissioners Ashley Younger, a Little Rock lawyer, and Alice Eastwood, a lawyer and ethics officer for Walmart. Voting no were former Republican state Sen. Sharon Trusty of Russellville, and Tony Juneau, a lawyer for Walmart from Rogers.
Reporters asked Juneau why he voted against the finding, Juneau started to give an answer and then stated that "out of respect for his colleges and the process he was not going to comment on that".
Earlier in the open session when the commission was discussing a request for an opinion from the Commission, Juneau made references to plain language of a statute and the intent of the statue. Reporters believed that based on his careful consideration in the opinion, he might have had issues with the use of the term unintentional.
All of the members of the Ethics Commission appear to be committed the the task to which they have been appointed and should be commended for their service to the citizens of Arkansas. They get little funding and support from the legislature.
|THE GIBBONS FAMILY & JERRY JONES|
Shenanigans and Jones are not strangers. Not too many years ago there were shocking photos leaked of Jones with young females.
When these photos surfaced, Jones claimed that they had been "misrepresented".
There was even a lawsuit filed against him by a stripper that alleged sexual assault. That suit was ultimate dismissed.
Every now and then a photo is posted on some social media site that is not too flattering of Jones.
And there are the memes.
This is not the first time Jones has been associated with ethical violations.
A couple of years ago, Jones sent his private jet to fetch his buddy, New Jersey
Governor Chris Christie and bring him down to Texas to enjoy the skybox experience at a Cowboys game.
|A 'NO HOMO' GROUP HUG|
The private jet ride and another little business deal in the works created a shitstorm for Governor Christie and Jones.
Jones was bidding on a lucrative contract (and got it) to provide hospitality services at the observation deck of the Port Authority's One World Trade Center which was controlled by Christie and Andrew Cuomo, the Governor or New York at that time. The observation deck was expected to create $875 million in revenue over the next 15 years.
The ethical quagmire surrounding Jones expensive jet ride for Christie and his obtaining the lucrative contact resulted in a Federal Investigation.
Some old timers might recall that Jones had some problems back in 1982 with a little gas deal.
You can read the complete story by clicking here.
Here's some more of that article:
That little deal is what propelled Jones to the position he is in now.
Perhaps Ethics Commission staff attorney Drew Blankenship picked the wrong person to idolize.
Will Jones appeal the Commission's decision? Not if he does not want to be further embarrassed about the poor advice Ms. Dolan and his legal team gave him.
Our previous posts about this matter: