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If you are a regular visitor to MySaline.com and you read the political commentary here, you have seen one vicious smear campaign after another, as the frenzied opponents of Circuit Clerk Dennis Milligan engage in one political assassination after another.

If you listen to them, he's a bully who pushes his employees around, harasses women, runs a horse race bookie operation out of the Circuit Clerk's office, where he freely uses county equipment and supplies with wild abandon, spending taxpayer's dollars for opulent, expensive, unnecessary improvements to the offices.  He is arrogant, they will tell you, and takes credit for improvements made by his predecessor.  They will describe him as incompetent, slow, and unable to operate the office in an efficient and professional way.  They denigrate his staff as people who have no idea how the office is operated.  They tear him up for the previous employees that he released from duty, even though he has every lawful right to determine his own staff. 

As some line up with the support primarily of a single, dogged attorney, he is accused of costing the county taxpayers for unnecessary and groundless lawsuits.  They have openly accused him of being corrupt, or just plain stupid.

They will insist that his opponent is the right choice -- someone who is running a make-believe primary challenge, posing as a Republican when she is actually a longtime, long voting Democrat, attempting to accomplish a general election outcome in a GOP primary stacked with Democratic voters, after which the Dems simply won't run a challenger because they will have who they want.

Did I miss anything?  Oh yeah.  I missed the truth, none of it appearing above.

Milligan has always been a model citizen who cares deeply about the people of Saline County, and has proven it again and again.  Those who know him best and have known him longest will tell you that they are enraged over the lies and smears that his opponents have engaged in.  They know a very different Dennis Milligan, a man of exceptional, even brutal honesty and integrity.  He's been described to me by close personal friends as a man who always brings his "A" game to the table, puts his family above all else, and puts his God above everything.

The details of who Dennis Milligan really is, and the political life he's leading are a study in contradictions as his opponents desperately try to find a way to trounce him out of office on May 22.  But before you flip the lever or mark the ballot for his opponent and reverse two years of progress, you might want to look twice at the REAL Dennis Milligan.

A MAN OF THE PEOPLE

Dennis Milligan is all about Saline County and things that will help people.  He doesn't just stand on the sidelines.  He gets into things up to his elbows, not content to let others take the lead.  Milligan owns a very successfull business, Water Treatment Services (WTS) that employs a staff of 10 Saline County workers.  His thoroughbred horse business supports  feed stores, land owners, horse shoe services, veterinarians and a host of other businesses.

Generosity has always been a trademark of Dennis' life, not for the attention it would bring him, but for the good it would do.  He came to the Circuit Clerk's office ready to donate a portion of his salary back to the community he serves, and he has been true to his word.

Dennis has created eight scholarships, all of which were donated to our four area high schools for the betterment of our young people.  He is a strong supporter (as a horse owner might be expected to be) of the Humane Society.  He is actively supporting the Benton Boys & Girls Club, as well as the Benton Senior Center.

He contributes both time and money to a single parent scholarship fund, and as a homebuilder and developer himself, strongly supports Habitat For Humanity.  He has built 60 new homes in Saline County, generating 34 additional jobs.

He continues to serve as a reserve deputy under Sheriff Bruce Pennington, and has been cited for past service, most notably his apprehension of a robbery suspect.  He is close to law enforcement officers and is a tireless supporter of Sheriff Bruce Pennington, one of Saline County's finest sheriffs.

A MODEL POLITICAL LIFE OF DUTY

Dennis Milligan embraces the conservative values that made this nation great, and is a proud member of the Republican Party of Arkansas.  He has served as a past Chairman of both the Saline County GOP Committee and the Republican Party of Arkansas, where he served without salary.  Twice he offered himself to Saline County voters in elections for state representative, but it was when he stepped up to end the practices by his predecessor of hiring a convicted felon to work in the Circuit Clerk's office that voters said "Enough!" and swept him into office.

His entry into office as Circuit Clerk was marred by controversy not of his own making, when a defiant local circuit judge declined to swear him into office, citing political opposition at an inappropriate time and in a categorically inappropriate way.  All the same, Milligan grasped the ropes early and produced remarkable results that benefits all of Saline County:

  • He implemented the CourtConnect Case Management System, which is required for electronic filing and is mandated by the State Supreme Court.  As such, Saline County will be among the very first counties to offer electronic filing as of 2013.
  • Milligan has made all court records available to the public and he plans the same thing for land records in the near future.
  • He implemented a new jury management system that combines three steps once done separately by hand into one step done electronically.  He obtained this program from the Arkansas Supreme Court at no cost to Saline County.  (His challenger, Myka Sample, actually opposed this system while working in the offices.) 
  • Milligan installed a long overdue postage machine, speeding up more than 700 pieces of mail from just Child Support Offices alone.
  • He put in an airport-style monitor in the courthouse so that quick and easy information can be found about upcoming trials and hearings being conducted.

What you, the voters of Saline County, need to be asking yourselves is this: Who wants to get rid of a decent, effective, competent man like this so badly that they are willing to write and publish horrific lies and exaggerations, viciously attacking him?  Who are these people and what do they want? 

Now, we have a disgruntled former employee falsely claiming that Milligan (a horse owner) is running a betting operation in the Circuit Clerk's office while keeping Milligan's property under false pretenses, retaining an attorney whose style is to threaten everyone around him -- even a prominent local TV news reporter -- with lawsuits if they say things he doesn't like?

More importantly what do YOU want on May 22?  Who can serve you best?  A majority of you decided once to embrace Dennis Milligan in 2010.  And now, he needs you again, not just to continue to serve you but to repudiate the critics and attackers who want to control YOUR county.

Dennis Milligan -- a man that ALL of Saline County can be proud of.

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Comment by Ricky David Tripp on April 22, 2012 at 2:14pm

Rachel, to further impress you, allow me to demonstrate even more compassion toward your friend Dana Mattingly, who may be an otherwise wonderful young woman.  Without knowing Dana at all, I can surmise a number of things, among them that she possibly found her way into Sutter's office through no fault of her own.

She obviously loved her job.  It is also safe to say she did a good one -- I have come into lawful possession of all of the documents related to the case, and they are all part of the public record now so they will be presented on my upcoming blog, "The Dennis Milligan Factual Clearinghouse."  The fact of her good work was also reflected in Shayne Knight's appeal on her Facebook page, when he acknowledged her value and was ready to build a road back for her.

One of the questions she would need to answer is why she chose not to take that road.  The obvious answer would be anger and bitterness.  I'm sure that she loved her co-workers and she loved working with them.  Then suddenly, this "bad man" comes in the door, knocks their boss out of a job and then starts firing her friends.  Who wouldn't understand her feeling some negative emotions about that?  That's simply human, and most would understand.

But Rachel, this is where we get to the sticky part of the issue and I need for you to really try to understand the complexity of this, as I believe you can.  This is the VERY REASON that the law provides that these positions be AT WILL.  Why?  Because the job is, by its very nature, a POLITICAL job, with political outcomes.  Put yourself in the place of anyone working in an office under an elected official.

You liked the man you were working for, and then suddenly, because of the voters, he's not there anymore!  You're furious!  You're hurt!  You're disappointed!  And you're angry at the man who just defeated your old boss in the election -- and undeservingly so.  He was chosen by the voters against your will, but they had the right to choose him for whatever reason.

Now, he's the boss.  You want to get even.  So you and your co-workers start to sabotage him, if you're allowed to stay.  Things don't work so well, because you and your co-workers, as acts of revenge, are pulling the rug out from under him, maybe even setting him up for a fall.  Then, if you are successful -- so goes this imaginary scenario -- your old boss might be able to run against him again, and win the job back!  Everything is wonderful!

Not.

Any newly elected official, the law suggests through at will employment, has the right to have a staff that is loyal to his goals, interests and standards.  It's a political job, with political outcomes and if the elected official doesn't produce, HE is the one who finds the curb come next election.  Can you separate your loyalty to your friend long enough to absorb this?  It could be difficult, if you like Dana a lot.  If I knew her, it might be difficult for me.

But there is a REASON for these provisions.  The very fact that these women were in place for so long -- a whopping 50 collective years -- that the idea of leaving never occurred to them, as long as they were "doing their jobs."  But it isn't based on that.  Hard for some to fathom, but it hangs on the desires of the elected official ALONE.

I have seen the FB pages now.  They were an exhibit attachment to the complaint, and Rachel, I'm sorry but they do not provide the proof, in my opinion, that Milligan reacted and fired Dana over them.  They simply do not contain content abrasive enough to motivate anyone in that direction, including Dennis.  They express mostly disappointment and sadness, not anger.  They contain no abusive language about Milligan at all, based on what I read.

But the pain they communicated most definitely resulted in others (who also lacked an understanding of "at will" employment) becoming angry and overreacting through no fault of Dana's.  They chose to make those angry, abusive protest calls, not because Dana wanted them to call, but because they loved her and wanted to defend her.  So they lashed out at the man they wrongly believed had "harmed" her.

In turn, I will give her some benefit of the doubt as well during a meeting that has become fairly well widespread since the case was settled, involving a conversation in which Dana lashed out and made a statement to the effect that she and Milligan "would be better off going our separate ways."  I can understand her making such a statement if, in fact, she did and if that story is true.  In turn, my information is that Milligan reportedly responded by saying that he accepted her apparent resignation, and understood that if she felt that way, perhaps it would be best.

No one's rights were violated, Rachel, in any of these possible scenarios.  I speak strongly here, so I'm an easy target for those who want to portray me as heartless and uncompassionate.  I have lots of compassion, and I'm sorry for anyone who loses their job in these hard times.

But it's clear -- a job in a political office is NOT one you can base a career on, and it's clear that many Saline County workers, including Bryant's former HR Director, just didn't get that.  Check out that woman's claim for damages against Mayor Dabbs and the city of Bryant -- $333,000, based on 16 years of anticipated additional employment.  The problem?

She was in an AT WILL job, and was NOT entitled to expect those 16 years if Dabbs or any other future mayor wanted to replace her!  The law says they can -- but Saline County friends of those who are released say they can't, and lawyers like Sutter stand ready to either sue their way back in the door or demand a huge sum of money.

I'm not beating up Sutter either, that's just the kind of lawyering he and others do.  I don't agree with it or approve of it, and if I could wave a magic wand, I'd put severe new tort laws in place that would send him to a manager's job at McDonalds!  I can separate the man from his work -- and on a personal level, he's quite the gentleman and an entertaining conversationalist.

But I still retain the ability to disagree with him strongly, just as I did his client, and even you.  On a personal note, Dana is lucky to have a friend like you.  Hopefully, in time, both of you and the rest of Saline County can come to grips with this never-before exercised right of public officials and in time, hopefully the healing can begin.

Comment by Ricky David Tripp on April 21, 2012 at 1:33am

Call me names, Ms. Watts.  You are in good company here.  Others sink to the same level.  I have never once said anything personal about Ms. Mattingly.  I do not know her at all.  She was simply not entitled to a job in an elective office, and under law, Mr. Milligan had the legal right to dismiss her for ANY reason at ANY time other than discrimination.  In her case, she still had a job but was distraught over the dismissal of her friends.

I've had numerous others who reported that she posted remarks on Facebook that were, shall we say, less than complimentary of Mr. Milligan.  Fury was assumed, but if incorrectly so, I cannot vouch for it because I didn't read the Facebook postings.  As her FB friend, perhaps you can enlighten all of us as to the tone of the postings, something I would appreciate knowing.

What I do know is that it worked -- it generated a barrage of phone calls to the Milligan home as it began to soak in to others that for possibly the first time in Saline County history, someone had actually exercised the prerogative of determining their own staff, instead of the previous office holders' staff being imposed on them on "or else" terms.

I don't doubt you for a moment that Ms. Mattingly is a nice person.  I hold her attorney fully responsible for most of the grief inflicted by the lawsuit -- it is the nature of his business, done his way with his style of lawyering. 

The lawsuit was a poor one, drawn for all of the wrong reasons, with no other result but to line the attorney's pocket while compensating his client in a settlement over things that did not happen.  But your credibility was void with me the minute you took a potshot at my name, and called me a "twit." 

I refuse to sink to your level, and encourage you to float back up to the surface of civility.

Comment by Ricky David Tripp on April 20, 2012 at 8:58am

That's all they know, Shirley.  Read the posts.  Get a load of the Duck.  Puts down the same stream of slime every time, beating the drum about 3 lawsuits and using the office for horse racing -- all of it garbage.  I could sue him 3 times, but that wouldn't make the suits his fault.

One was settled out of insurance money by mutual agreement with no judgment, while one likely countersuit (no evidence it has been filed) will fail as will another one (DePriest) alleging non-selection due to her political views.

I share your irritation, but what can we do?  Comment or ignore it.

Comment by Duck Bill on April 18, 2012 at 10:49pm

Milligan has done all this on himself, 3 lawsuits and using the office for items related to his horse racing business and whatever else.  It is time for a new clerk. 

Comment by Duck Bill on April 18, 2012 at 10:40pm

I really like reading your posts Honest. 

Comment by Shirley Reynolds on April 18, 2012 at 10:31pm

Again. none of you who are brow beating this man todeath know what the real job is about and qualifications, You have not worked the job or been responsible.  The only thing you are doing is griping and complaining and you don't even know what you are griping and complaining about.  You have ever right to go to the poles and vote for whom ever you like, but in the meantime think about are you really doing the right thing by tearing people up?

 

Comment by honest on April 18, 2012 at 10:24pm

            Comment by Casey Smith 58 seconds ago

Mr. Tripp,

 You seem to be a reasonable guy. So why is it so hard to understand that this was not about denial of free speech, but retaliation of her free speech? It puzzles me that you seem to know so much about the inner workings of these offices. Where you an employee there? What is your angle to this?--- Do you just enjoy thinking your friends with people in authoritative positions?  ----{Casey, he “IS”  friends with people in authoritative position, you are not getting it}---- Maybe it’s all just a game for you but it’s not for the taxpayers. I want to see competent people in these positions and Milligan had a great opportunity to do his job without all of the mess he created. The facts in his disposition speak for themselves.--- Why is it that his opponent is the devil in your eyes?---- { Casey, It is a team thing; my team, their team, you are not getting it}--- You have chastised Democrats on this blog, and even tried to paint his opponent as one, yet she is running as a Republican. I have news for you; having a label on your name does not make you a better person. You talk about how this country is falling apart, but its political rhetoric like yours that is tearing it apart. You seem to think that there is only one person for a job when many others can do it as well. I personally hate to hear Milligan on the radio during the day. He’s campaigning for his job when taxpayers are paying him to be working. Is this a good way to use our tax dollars? Where are you when it comes to being conservative with our money on that issue? What point is there to any clerk being on a radio show?--- They have no influence on any legislation ---{ Casey, yes they do, you are not getting it}.--- All the political spin is nauseating as this is not about new way or old.---  {Casey, yes it is, you are not getting it.}--- It’s about getting the job done right and Mr. Milligan had his chance.  People will judge and this information needs to be put out there… too much of it is true and has facts to back it up---.You never have spoken about his statement as to needing another attack like 9/11---{ Casey, he is on their team, you are not getting it.}-- IF someone that you were not friends with” said something like this, I bet you would crucify them and send a letter to all their constituents.—

---{ Casey, now you get it.}---

Comment by Casey Smith on April 18, 2012 at 10:12pm

Denise,

You make a good point that i would like Ricky to address. Why is it that if someone votes in a democratic primary they are labeled a democrat, meanwhile he supports someone that was elected as a democrat and switched soon after this last election to a Rep. Why would Pennington not wait until the next election to switch parties? It looks to me that he wanted the Dem votes and Rep votes at the same time last elections and then switched soon after so that people would forget the flip flooping he done. I personally do not vote strictly on party affiliation but this type of trickery is not what people want. So Ricky, back to the point, Why is it ok to support a known democrat and not one that voted in a primary ? Remember alot of your friends like Mr. Coger in Bryant also voted in the Democratic primary also, why not say they are not fit for office?

Comment by Denise T. on April 18, 2012 at 8:50pm
"A Model Political Life of Duty"? Since Mr. Milligan is such a model republican - proud member of the GOP - why did he, in August 2010, tear down a fellow republican's election sign? According to the news article regarding that incident, he did so in plain view if a police officer. That doesn't sound like a model republican to me.

Mr. Tripp, did you author the blog you posted here? In one paragraph you carry on about Ms. Sample's democratic voting record, and then several paragraphs later refer to Mr. Milligan as a "tireless supporter of Bruce Pennington"...the fine sheriff who ran for his position on the Democratic ticket. I don't doubt his tireless support of Sheriff Pennington, he supported him so much that he tore down Mr. Pennington's GOP opponent's sign (according to the police officer who witnessed this outrageous act).
Once again, I don't think the party affiliation matters one bit in this clerk race. What matters to me is the ability to do the job. From all the information I've read, his opponent is much more experienced than him so I'll forego the dem primary ballot this time.
Comment by Ricky David Tripp on April 18, 2012 at 8:16pm

This comes under the header, "Don't kill the messenger."  Realize what environment you are in, if you are going to comment here.  It's called free speech, and you are free to disagree, correct the record, challenge statements, or debate.  It's like an electronic coffeeshop.  You don't walk in the door and expect to make the rules.

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