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17th Edition of Arkansas Freedom of Information Handbook

Attorney General, Press Association Publish 17th Edition of Arkansas Freedom of Information Handbook

Wed, 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.

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Expands Office Reach, Protects Consumers During First Year

Rutledge Expands Reach of Office, Protects Consumers During First Year

Wed, 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.

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Record Year for Medicaid Fraud Control Unit

Rutledge Marks Record Year for Medicaid Fraud Control Unit

Tue, 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.

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Nursing Home Checklist

Rutledge Develops Nursing Home Checklist

Tue, Jan 12, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today began providing a new resource to Arkansans having to choose an appropriate nursing home or long-term residential care facility for a loved one. Rutledge has made available a Nursing Home Checklist at ArkansasAG.gov to help families by providing them with questions they should consider when selecting a facility.

“Both of my grandmothers lived to be 94 and both lived in residential care facilities,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I understand the process can be difficult and overwhelming to make sure that a proper facility is chosen so that loved ones receive the best care. Just as my grandmothers received top-notch care, I want to make sure others receive the same, excellent care. This checklist will help family members consider the important questions when deciding which facility is best for their loved one.”

The checklist has been developed by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, which is protecting Medicaid by fighting fraud and stopping patient abuse, neglect and exploitation in Arkansas’s long-term care facilities.

A copy of the checklist is available at ArkansasAG.gov or may be requested by contacting the Attorney General's office at 501-682-7760 or oag@ArkansasAG.gov.

For nursing home star ratings, visit Medicare.gov.

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.

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Suit Against Local Car Dealer for Consumer-Protection Violations

Rutledge Files Suit Against Local Car Dealer for Consumer-Protection Violations

Tue, 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.

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Passing of Berryville Chief of Police David Muniz

Rutledge Statement on the Passing of Berryville Chief of Police David Muniz

Fri, Jan 8, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today issued a statement after learning of the passing of long-time Berryville Police Chief David Muniz.

“Chief David Muniz was a fighter, and I am saddened to learn of his passing,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “For the past three years, Chief Muniz has bravely battled cancer, refusing to give up. That same courage and commitment is what helped him become the longest serving police chief in Arkansas, leading the Berryville Police Department for the last 35 years and keeping the residents of Berryville safe from harm. Chief Muniz was a man of high character and a selfless public servant. I join the people of Berryville in mourning the passing of this long-time fixture in their community, and I extend my thoughts and prayers to family, friends and fellow officers.”

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