Rutledge Statement on the Passing of Former Arkansas Chief Justice Jim HannahThu, Jan 14, 2016
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released a statement today in response to the passing of former Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Hannah.
“Arkansas has lost a fine attorney and judge,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “From my time as a clerk at the Court of Appeals, I know firsthand that Judge Hannah was always willing to give advice to young, aspiring lawyers. Judge Hannah consistently put the people of Arkansas and the rule of law above all other considerations. He has only been away from the Court a short time and like many Arkansans, I am saddened by his sudden passing, but I know the impact he had on our State’s judiciary will not be soon forgotten. As I said when the chief justice announced his retirement, throughout his lengthy career he consistently provided a fair and impartial approach to any question or case brought before him. I extend my sincere thoughts and prayers to his wife, Pat, and the entire Hannah family.”
Rutledge Adopts Digital You as New Internet Safety ProgramThu, Jan 14, 2016
SEARCY – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced that her office is adopting a new Internet safety program. Digital You is a comprehensive, interactive educational program created by AT&T and Common Sense Media to offer tools, tips, apps, guidance and community education events for people of all ages and levels of online experience to learn more about how to have a safe and secure online experience. Digital You was officially launched nationally in August 2015.
Rutledge made the announcement at a press conference at the Lightle Senior Center in Searcy along with AT&T’s External Affairs Manager Rhonda Cline.
“In addition to teaching young people about Internet safety, it is a priority of mine to educate parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and all adults about how to be smart online,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “By teaming up with Common Sense Media and AT&T to utilize their technology expertise and research, educators from my office will be able to present age-appropriate Internet safety trainings not only to children but enhance our statewide outreach to teenagers, parents and senior citizens to enable them to use technology in a safe and responsible manner. Regardless of age, skills or where Arkansans live, everyone is susceptible to scams and online threats.”
"AT&T deeply appreciates the opportunity to work with Attorney General Rutledge on this fantastic public education initiative,” said AT&T Director of External & Legislative Affairs Rhonda Cline. “AT&T launched Digital You so that people of all ages and levels of digital savvy have the resources and guidance they need to have a safe, secure and productive online experience. With educational materials for older adults, parents, teens, and individuals with disabilities, we are pleased Digital you is helping arm her office with information that will help Arkansans of all ages navigate the day to day issues that are a part of our digital experience.”
The Attorney General’s community educators are now offering Digital You presentations across the State to three audiences – seniors, parents and teens. The goal of the program is to help Arkansans with privacy, safety and security as they connect online.
Seniors and older adults who are digital newcomers will be given tips and tricks to learn how to use mobile devices, navigate the Internet, recognize scams, keep private information secure, back up data and more so that they can be empowered online. Parents will be given information about managing device usage, staying safe online, handling issues like cyberbullying and online reputation and protecting devices. Teenagers will be taught how to safely and responsibly navigate their digital lives.
Following the announcement, a community educator with the Attorney General’s office gave a presentation to seniors at the center.
Rutledge also launched her official Snapchat account today, making her the first constitutional officer in the State to use the platform. To follow Rutledge, open the Snapchat application and search “agrutledge.”
For more information about Digital You, upcoming presentations or to request a presentation in your community, please call (501) 682-2007 or visit ArkansasAG.gov.
Attorney General, Press Association Publish 17th Edition of Arkansas Freedom of Information HandbookWed, Jan 13, 2016
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and the Arkansas Press Association today announced that the 17th edition of the Freedom of Information Handbook is now available online and in print.
“The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act is one of the most comprehensive in the country,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “It is considered one of the strongest and best models for open government, and I am pleased to join with the Arkansas Press Association to ensure that government officials, journalists and citizens across the State are informed about and correctly adhering to the law.”
“It is an important joint endeavor, and we print some 25,000 copies of the handbook after each legislative session to help inform public office holders as to their responsibilities under Arkansas’ strong open government laws,” said Tres Williams, communications director and chief lobbyist for the Arkansas Press Association. “We also make the publication widely available to stress to all the importance of the Freedom of Information Act in preserving transparency and ensuring citizen involvement in the institutions they fund.”
The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act was enacted by the General Assembly in 1967 after a strong push from a coalition of citizens and journalists and with the support of then-Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller. The bill passed the House and Senate without a dissenting vote. Gov. Rockefeller later reflected that passage of the FOIA was one of the most significant achievements of his time in office.
Print copies of the handbook are available upon request from the Attorney General’s office by calling (501) 682-2007, and electronic copies of the handbook are available at ArkansasAG.gov and at ArkansasPress.org.
Rutledge Expands Reach of Office, Protects Consumers During First YearWed, Jan 13, 2016
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge marked her first full year in office today and said that in 2015 her office resolved 8,000 formal consumer complaints to directly benefit the consumer. From $0.60 on a billing dispute for cable television all the way up to $186,000 on a billing disagreement for pharmaceuticals, the office has worked complaints from all 75 counties and obtained over $43 million in settlement funds, utility cases and informal complaint mediation.
As a result of individual complaints, nearly 75 investigations have been opened by the office and 15 matters have been resolved, including ExxonMobil, Educational Management Corp., Chase, Amgen, Cancer Fund of America, Standard & Poor’s, CMCS Credit Services, USA Publishing, Electronic Multi-Media Marketing Group, Tri-State Pawn, Equifax, Transunion, Experian, Sprint and Verizon. The resolution of these matters impacted more than 583,000 Arkansans.
“I am proud of the hard work of my office to educate Arkansans about scam artists, to mediate dozens of complaints and to push back against an overreaching federal government,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I have personally traveled over 21,000 miles this past year to meet with Arkansans about the services of the Attorney General’s office because I want citizens to know that we are here to do the fighting for them. My dedicated staff has worked consumer complaints in-person in all 75 counties for the first time in the history of the office, bringing a positive result to individuals in each county. In addition to complaint mediation, many investigations are ongoing and dozens of others have been opened over this last year in response to deceptive business practices. While much has been accomplished during my first year, I know we have more to do on behalf of hardworking Arkansans.”
Rutledge has expanded the reach of the office by bringing the office to each county. Under the mobile office program, which began in April, staff met with consumers in person to assist in filing consumer complaints and to answer questions. In total, 88 mobile offices were held in 2015.
Rutledge herself has also traveled to all 75 counties, meeting with business, government and civic leaders listening to their concerns and discussing local issues. Rutledge has hosted 85 roundtables across the State with more than 700 participants and has traveled more than 21,000 miles in her first year in office.
To keep the public informed about common and emerging scams, Rutledge has issued a consumer alert to Arkansans once a week, providing helpful tips to avoid becoming a victim. These alerts have been picked up by countless media outlets and shared repeatedly on social media platforms. Rutledge encourages all Arkansans to sign up to receive these alerts in their email and to share them with friends and family.
The office has updated its charities database with 492 new registrations, bringing the total number of charities registered to approximately 10,000.
Rutledge launched the first-ever Military and Veterans Initiative at the Attorney General’s office. This initiative has assisted active-duty military service members, reservists, veterans and their families with consumer-related issues, Veterans Treatment Courts and the Hiring Heroes Program. Rutledge has held roundtables in various regions across the State to hear directly from military and veteran stakeholders. The office has worked collaboratively with the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA) in developing the ADVA Verified program, which helps educate donors about veterans’ charities to ensure their expectations are met. The Attorney General’s office also committed to contributing $170,000 to assist ADVA with opening District Veteran Service Offices across the State to help provide much-needed resources and services to Arkansas’s more than 250,000 veterans.
Rutledge has demanded action at the federal level to protect consumers, including urging U.S. House and Senate leadership to preserve the State’s enforcement authority for data breach laws and the Federal Communications Commission to maintain the current safeguards and filters used to protect consumers from spam and phishing text messages. Rutledge continues to push the major phone carriers to provide call-blocking technology to consumers.
Fulfilling a promise to Arkansans, Rutledge has gotten Arkansas off the sidelines and pushed back against an overreaching federal government. Arkansas has sued the Environmental Protection Agency numerous times in an effort to prevent unlawful regulations from harming Arkansas’s economy, small business owners and families. Rutledge’s lawsuit challenging the Waters of the U.S. rule resulted in an injunction nationwide. Other litigation has included challenging the so-called Clean Power Plan, the Ozone rule, regional haze and the State Implementation Plans governing excess emissions during startup, shutdown or malfunction.
Continuing to educate consumers remains a top priority for Rutledge, and in 2015, three summits and over 500 community presentations with more than 30,500 attendees were conducted on various topics, such as Internet safety, cyberbullying, identity theft, prescription drug abuse prevention and the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. The Attorney General’s office has also had a presence at 29 conferences to provide educational materials throughout the year. More than 34,500 printed materials, including consumer and Internet safety education publications, Child ID kits and bracelets, and Identity Theft Passports have been distributed to Arkansans.
Rutledge Files Suit Against Local Car Dealer for Consumer-Protection ViolationsTue, Jan 12, 2016
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed a consumer-protection lawsuit today against Jacksonville-based Miracle Motors Corp. and its owners for advertising the sale of used vehicles and failing to provide the vehicle title on the vehicle to Arkansas purchasers.
“Purchasing a vehicle is a major expense,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Arkansans deserve to be treated with fairness and complete honesty when they visit a business, but Miracle Motors took advantage of that expectation. The deceptive fraud that Miracle Motors undertook left many Arkansans in difficult positions, putting not only their transportation and credit at risk but also their livelihoods.”
To date, 15 instances have been identified where the car dealer failed to provide a title to the vehicle at the time of sale.
According to the complaint, which was filed today in Pulaski County Circuit Court, on numerous occasions the dealership advertised vehicles for sale, which it did not own, sold the vehicles to Arkansas consumers, accepted payment and failed to deliver the vehicle title in a timely fashion. The owners of Miracle Motors implicitly misrepresented the current condition of the vehicles they sold by offering them for sale without having the ability to convey the title at the time of purchase. Consumers believed that there were no restrictions or obstacles preventing them from ownership of the vehicle.
In addition to not being able to legally drive the vehicle, lack of a title prevented Arkansans from insuring the vehicle, exposing them to great risk.
Rutledge is asking the court to impose civil penalties, restitution for the affected consumers, attorneys’ fees, costs and other relief against Miracle Motors.
If you are a consumer who has been impacted by the actions of Miracle Motors, Rutledge encourages you to contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 482-8982.
Rutledge Marks Record Year for Medicaid Fraud Control UnitTue, Jan 12, 2016
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced that the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) investigated more cases in 2015 than ever before, with 108 new investigations. Previously, the unit opened an average of 81 criminal cases per year, with the most cases in one year being 104.
Investigators worked with local prosecutors to ensure 26 criminal convictions, 13 Medicaid fraud convictions and seven long-term care convictions. A total of nine personal care attendants were convicted in 2015. One nurse and two nursing aides were convicted in abuse and neglect cases. The MFCU obtained $173,000 in nursing home abuse and neglect settlements and an additional $475,647.40 from Arkansas’s share of global settlements, agreed upon by the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units.
“The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit did incredible work last year to successfully protect Medicaid recipients across Arkansas,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The team worked tirelessly to combat fraud and hold those accountable who abuse and neglect Arkansans residing in assisted living facilities and nursing homes. I am committed to protecting Arkansas’s most vulnerable and making sure they receive the respectful and professional care they deserve.”
In June, Rutledge reclassified four positions in the unit to certified law enforcement officers, marking the first time the MFCU has included law enforcement officers.
The MFCU opened 18 and closed seven drug diversion cases in 2015. One conviction resulted in charges of possession of controlled substance(s) where the defendant was sentenced to three years of probation, $1,000 in fines, and $545 in other costs.
Medicaid fraud occurs when Medicaid providers use the Medicaid program to obtain money to which they are not entitled. To report Medicaid fraud or abuse or neglect in nursing homes, call the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Hotline at (866) 810-0016.